Durbin Meets With Vietnam Vet, Calls On Trump Administration To Stop Blocking Coverage For Agent Orange Diseases

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with a Vietnam Veteran who has battled bladder cancer and hypertension due to exposure to Agent Orange and called on the Trump Administration to stop stonewalling extending critical health benefits to Vietnam veterans whose service exposed them to Agent Orange. In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed expanding the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and Parkinsonism, but the move was blocked by the Trump Administration. The VA estimates that at least 190,000 veterans have been blocked access to necessary benefits, a number that is only expected to grow.  There are approximately 191,000 Vietnam-era veterans living in Illinois, many of whom were exposed to toxins such as Agent Orange during their service. 

“President Trump claims that he respects veterans more than anyone else.  But when it comes to ensuring the men and women that served our nation have the proper care, he and his Administration have fallen short,” Durbin said. “The VA has recognized the connection between Agent Orange and several conditions, but we are still learning about the effects of Agent Orange and how we can better help veterans and their families. The VA recently proposed expanding the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases, but the move was blocked by the Trump Administration. President Trump must step up to provide these veterans – who have done so much for this country – with long overdue support. I am proud to stand up for the Vietnam Veterans like John who suffer from these illnesses.”

Since the Agent Orange Act of 1991, VA has established a presumption of service-connection for 14 diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure based on National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reports.  This allows Vietnam War-era veterans stricken by those illnesses to receive additional health care benefits and disability compensation, and pass on care benefits to surviving spouses as well as dependent children and parents. Over the years, a number of health experts and studies have found sufficient evidence of association between exposure to herbicides and additional illnesses, recommending that the list of presumptive service-connected diseases be expanded. 

Last week, Durbin joined Senate Democrats in condemning the Trump Administration for stonewalling critical benefits to Veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In their 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 VA list of service-connected presumptive conditions for Agent Orange.

Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) also weighed in on the issue, condemning the Administration for continuing unnecessary and pernicious delays in justice for Vietnam Veterans suffering from service-connected illnesses.