National veterans organizations launched a “final push” for Congress
to grant VA benefits to tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans
believed to be suffering the effects of Agent Orange. The effort is
designed to put pressure on lawmakers to publicly support the Fair Care
for Vietnam Veterans Act (S.3444). The measure was added to the Senate’s
annual defense bill last month but didn’t make it into the House’s
version because of cost concerns. It must survive negotiations between
House and Senate lawmakers before becoming law.
The bill would approve benefits for Vietnam War veterans
suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s-like
symptoms — conditions thought to be caused by exposure to the chemical
herbicide Agent Orange. The bill would add the diseases to the VA
presumptive list, which lowers the amount of proof veterans must provide
in order to receive VA benefits.
In 2018, researchers with the National Academies of Sciences
determined there was “suggestive” evidence linking Agent Orange exposure
to hypothyroidism. A 2016 report from the academies determined that
there was “limited” or “suggestive” evidence linking Agent Orange to
bladder cancer. That year, the academies also clarified that
Parkinson-like symptoms should be considered as part of Parkinson’s
disease, which is on the list of presumptive diseases.
Seven national veterans groups wrote to President Trump and asked
him to intervene. They criticized the VA for dragging its feet. It’s
uncertain when negotiations on the annual defense measure will be
finalized, but it’s likely to happen around the end of the year.
[Source: Excerpted from Stars & Stripes | Nikki Wentling | August 20,