Senators demand action from White House neglecting Vietnam Veterans with health conditions
(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and his colleagues are refusing to back down from their fight to ensure Vietnam veterans suffering from toxic exposure to Agent Orange receive necessary benefits and care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Tester led four colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today urging Director and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to stop blocking the inclusion of Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension on VA’s presumptive list as it relates to Agent Orange exposure. Expanding the list of conditions would provide disability compensation and health benefits for more than 80,000 veterans currently suffering from these health conditions.
“No more excuses,” the Senators demanded in their letter. “Stop turning your backs on thousands of Vietnam-era Veterans across the country who are suffering— and dying— from significant health conditions directly associated with their service to our nation and their exposure to toxic herbicides. Stop denying the overwhelming scientific evidence provided to you by countless veterans and medical experts – the same evidence cited by the previous VA Secretary, who attempted to add these medical conditions to the presumptive list more than two years ago. These veterans and their families have already sacrificed a great deal. They should not be forced to wait one minute longer.”
The National Academies of Medicine (NAM) issued the Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2014 on March 10, 2016, listing Hypothyroidism and Bladder Cancer as having “limited or suggestive evidence of an association” to Agent Orange exposure. In addition, this report broadened the definition of Parkinson’s disease, which also was in the “limited or suggestive evidence of an association” category, to include Parkinson-like symptoms or Parkinsonism. NAM later issued the Veterans and Agent Orange Update 11 on November 15, 2018, which found even greater scientific evidence that Agent Orange causes Hypertension in Vietnam Veterans.
In addition to Tester, the letter was signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
For years, Tester has fought tirelessly in Congress to make sure Vietnam Veterans get the treatment and benefits they have earned. In September 2018, Tester led Democratic Senators in detailing the lack of movement from VA on adding health-related outcomes to the presumptive list for herbicide exposure. They also pushed the Department to follow through on self-imposed deadlines, as proposed in a letter sent by Secretary Wilkie at the beginning of this year. In September 2017, Tester led a group of Senators in demanding VA make a decision on the NAM report. He repeated the call to act in March 2018. He additionally urged the Office of Management and Budget to assist VA in expanding the list of presumptive medical conditions in April 2018.
Read the full letter to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney HERE.
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