Durbin, Colleagues Introduce Bill Directing VA To 'Do Its Job' And Support Veterans Suffering From Diseases Linked To Agent Orange

Top VSOs Endorse Bill To Add Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, And Hypertension To List Of Service-Connected Presumptive Conditions

WASHINGTON – After years of inaction from the Trump Administration, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and more than 29 Senate colleagues, introduced the bicameral Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020, which would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide additional benefits for veterans suffering from four diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Currently, veterans with specific health conditions developed as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are eligible for certain health and disability benefits from VA. However, the Trump Administration continues to deny these benefits for approximately 190,000 veterans struggling with Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension—four conditions scientifically proven to have an association with exposure to the toxic herbicide. The Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 would add these illnesses to VA’s list of Agent Orange service-connected presumptive conditions and provide essential benefits and care to Vietnam veterans.

“It’s well-past time to expand benefits for Vietnam veterans who are suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.  As the Trump Administration continues to block these veterans from receiving additional support for their health conditions related to Agent Orange, our bill would add a list of illnesses to the VA’s service-connected presumptive conditions and ensure our brave Vietnam veterans get the care they risked their lives for,” Durbin said.

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have been outspoken critics of the continued delays in justice for Vietnam veterans suffering from service-connected illnesses. They continue to be Congress’ top ally and strongest advocates in expanding VA’s list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions:

“Vietnam veterans did our part. After winning every battle they fought while they were in Vietnam, many of them have lost their fight to the horrible health conditions they received from Agent Orange exposure,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Commander-in-Chief William J. “Doc” Schmitz. “It’s unacceptable that the list of conditions presumed to be associated with Agent Orange exposure does not include Bladder Cancer, Parkinson-like symptoms, Hypertension, and the other conditions that the scientists have said are connected to military service. The VFW is proud to support the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020, which would correct this wrong.”

“Caring for those who were wounded in service of our country is one of our most sacred duties,” said President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Lieutenant General Dana Atkins. “Scientific evidence linking the four presumptives with Agent Orange exists and should be accepted. Exposure to Agent Orange is credibly associated with Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like symptoms, and Hypertension in our Vietnam veterans. We must act and ensure these veterans receive the care they need. MOAA appreciates the continued Congressional focus on this issue and we will continue to work until all 190,000 affected veterans receive the care and support they earned.”

“The Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 is an essential component of the agreement our nation made with these veterans when they took an oath,” said AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown. “Veterans wrote a check with their lives and Congress vowed to take care of them when they returned home. Reportedly, VA is already treating 1,404 Vietnam-era veterans for Parkinsonism, 5,836 for Bladder Cancer, 15,657 for Hypothyroidism and 308,329 for Hypertension. It’s time to expand the exposure list to include these diseases, and this Act deserves as much support as can be mustered.”

“Vietnam War veterans have already given so much to their country,” said American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “Now, almost 50 years after the war ended, many continue to suffer. Whether it’s from the serious effects of Bladder Cancer or Hypothyroidism, the pain can be agonizing for these veterans and the families who love them. The American Legion believes the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 can help alleviate some of that suffering. We urge Congress to pass this legislation immediately.”