Tester praises VA decision to expand benefits for Agent Orange illnesses

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released the following statement in response to the Veterans’ Administration’s decision to allow Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange to file for service-connected disability benefits and medical care if they are now suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, B-cell (“hairy cell”) leukemia or ischemic heart disease:

“I thank the Secretary for making this important decision.  It’s another significant step in the right direction.  And it gives many folks who served honorably during the Vietnam War overdue recognition that their service and sacrifice is honored and appreciated by all of us.

“But of course, there is more work to be done for all our veterans.  We need to redouble our efforts to improve the VA health system and end the unacceptable backlog of veterans’ disability claims.”

Agent Orange was a powerful, toxic herbicide used by the military to kill leaves on trees in jungles—making it more difficult for enemies to hide there.  More than 2.5 million Vietnam veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange.

More information about Agent Orange and resources for veterans exposed to the chemical are available online at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/

Montana veterans are also welcome to contact Bruce Knutson, Tester’s Veterans’ Liaison, for further information about all veterans’ benefits.  Knutson can be reached toll-free at (866) 554-4403, or in Helena at (406) 449-5401.