WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) pressed Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie on key issues impacting Ohio veterans during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. Brown first thanked Secretary Wilkie for his commitment to move forward on the plans to house the VA History, Research, and National Heritage Center at Dayton’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). Brown then pushed the Department to act to help servicemembers and veterans harmed by toxic exposure such as Agent Orange and burn pits, and not appeal the recent Procopio decision that extends benefits to most Blue Water Navy Veterans.

Toxic Exposure

“We have a responsibility to ensure our veterans have the care they need to address the dangers they face while serving this country,” said Brown. “If you were exposed to poison while serving our country, you deserve the benefits you earned, period. No exceptions.”

In September of 2018, Brown met with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and pressed him on the need to secure benefits for these veterans. Brown also raised the issue during a Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing in September. Brown’s office has held more than a dozen roundtables with veterans across Ohio in the past few months, with Ohio veterans raising the Blue Water Navy issue time and time again. Brown will continue pushing for benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans either through his legislation or administrative action by the VA.

Last December, Brown joined colleagues asking for unanimous consent on H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, which would secure benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans, who were exposed to toxic Agent Orange chemicals during the Vietnam War. Brown is a cosponsor of the Senate companion legislation, which would ensure these veterans are able to receive the healthcare benefits they need and have earned after their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

The military also relied on open-air burn pits to dispose of toxic waste in Afghanistan and Iraq, which exposed servicemembers and veterans to toxic chemicals and fumes that have been linked to certain deadly diseases. Brown introduced legislation in January to help study the effects of burn pits on servicemembers’ health and has also requested that the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hold a hearing on toxic exposure in Washington, D.C.

Dayton VA History Center

“All Ohioans should be proud Dayton will be home to the National VA History Center, and I join the Dayton community and Ohio veterans in celebrating this huge honor,” said Brown. “The Dayton VA Medical Center has a distinguished 150-year history serving Ohio veterans and now people from around the country will come to the Miami Valley to learn about those who have served.”

Last summer, Senators Brown and Rob Portman (R-OH) along with Representatives Mike Turner (OH-10) and Warren Davidson (OH-8) wrote to Secretary Wilkie urging he move forward on the plans to locate the VA History Center in Dayton, noting that this partnership would not only help honor our nation’s servicemembers, but also bring greater economic development and tourism to the area. Wilkie responded to that letter this month with a commitment to, in fact, move forward.

Brown, Portman, Turner, and Davidson have been working for years to make the History Center in Dayton a reality. In June, during then-nominee Wilkie’s Senate hearing, Brown secured a commitment from Mr. Wilkie that he would work, if confirmed, to move forward with plans to house the VA History Center in Dayton. Brown fought for years to bring the history center to Dayton (learn more).