Following VA report, senators join Veterans Service Organizations and afflicted veterans in calling for the expansion of presumptive conditions
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and 39 of their colleagues in calling on the Administration to provide benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange. In a letter, the senators specifically called on the Administration to stop denying scientific evidence, and end the years-long delay of adding bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and hypertension to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of service-connected presumptive conditions.
“More than fifty years after their service and sacrifice, these veterans continue to suffer the detrimental effects of their exposure each day. These heroes deserve more than inaction and indecision from their own government— they deserve justice,” the senators wrote.
Since the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA has established a presumption of service-connection for 14 diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAESM) reports. However, in a recent report required by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill, the VA called into question the scientific evidence put forth by the National Academies of Medicine (NAM), noting “significant concerns and limitations” in the findings of NAESM scientists. The VA also cited additional requirements in the Department’s standards for presumptive conditions, delaying the consideration of care and compensation for thousands of suffering veterans.
Earlier this week, multiple Veterans Service Organizations additionally weighed in on the issue.
“Mr. President, Vietnam veterans have long suffered from the ill health effects of Agent Orange exposure,” wrote the VSOs. “Thousands have died and many have been left to endure these negative health consequences from diseases that have been scientifically linked to Agent Orange. The continued delayed action by VA is causing additional suffering for Vietnam veterans and their families. We urge you to take action and to end the wait, needless suffering and disappointment for an entire generation of veterans.”
In addition to Klobuchar, Smith, Tester, and Schumer, the letter was signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Jack Reed (D-RI).
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