The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a proposal that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to add three illnesses — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s symptoms — to the list of conditions that authorities presume are linked to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. AUSN applauds this major new development, which is one step closer to helping more Veterans get the care and benefits they deserve.
The Senate voted 94-6 to include the amendment in their draft of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
Sen. Jon Tester (MT), ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, spearheaded the effort. He called it a “historic win for thousands of Vietnam Veterans” in a statement.
“With the inclusion of my amendment in this must-pass defense bill, we are now one step closer to providing our Vietnam War heroes with the treatment and benefits they deserve from VA,” Tester said in the statement. “But our fight is far from over—taking care of our veterans is a continuing cost of war, and we’ve got to keep extending the list of presumptive conditions to support an entire population of veterans living with other debilitating illnesses as a result of their service.”
Exposure to Agent Orange has left thousands of Vietnam War Veterans suffering from numerous ailments, not all of which are recognized by the VA as being connected to their service. As a result, many suffer without care or are forced to pay out of their own pockets for benefits that should be covered by the U.S. government.
AUSN and other organizations have been working with numerous lawmakers over the years to deal with the problem of toxic exposure. In 2019, the passage of the landmark Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act provided benefits to thousands of Veterans who served aboard ship and were exposed to Agent Orange despite not setting foot in Vietnam.
AUSN is also a member of the TEAM coalition, which is in the midst of drafting comprehensive legislation that will seek to get out ahead of toxic exposure issues in the past and in the future. We will continue to fight to make sure every Veteran is covered for illnesses suffered due to exposure while serving, and we will ensure that the Pentagon will do all it can to protect our men and women in the future.