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Friday, May 7th, 2021

Defense bill amendment targets Agent Orange aid

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Citing Agent Orange’s wide impact, two Democratic senators are urging the inclusion of Senate Amendment 1972 in the final National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA).

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Jon Tester (D-MT) said the amendment would establish a presumption of service connection for bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism veterans exposed to the chemical.

“More than 30,000 service members are suffering from conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure, yet the VA continues to deny care by placing the burden of proof on veterans,” Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “No veteran should have to fight the VA for care that is linked to their service while they are fighting for their life. That’s why I introduced legislation to guarantee care and benefits for those exposed to burn pits, and that is why I will continue fighting with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for those exposed to Agent Orange. It’s time for Congress to pass this important provision and ensure veterans can access the medical care they need.”

Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said justice is overdue for aging veterans currently dying from conditions resulting from their exposure to Agent Orange chemicals in Vietnam.

“Congress must acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence put forth by veterans, scientists, and medical experts and end the wait for more than 34,000 frustrated veterans living with and dying from these debilitating health conditions. Inclusion of my amendment in the Senate’s must-pass annual defense bill will send a clear message that we’re living up to the promises made to those who served by ensuring they get the care and benefits they’ve earned.”