Tester fights to increase research for Agent Orange exposure

Senator cosponsors bill to research toxic chemical exposure

(U.S. Senate) – After hosting multiple roundtable discussions with Montana veterans, Senator Jon Tester is sponsoring legislation to increase research into the long-term impacts of toxic chemical exposure on veterans and military families.

Tester’s bill, the Toxic Exposure Research Act, increases research into the health conditions of descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service, particularly those exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

“Veterans deserve to know more about the long-term impacts chemical exposure will have on their children and grandchildren,” Tester said. “This bill takes a step in the right direction to get folks the answers they deserve and to inform the VA’s efforts to treat veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals while serving our nation.”

“The American Legion believes in treating the veteran first, funding the necessary research, and ensuring that service members are not exposed to chemical hazards again,” said Ian de Planque, American Legion Legislative Director. “This legislation would help address the need to better understand the toxins that many veterans have been exposed to, and enhance the understanding that the effect of exposure may have on veterans’ descendants.”

“The information identified by the Institute of Medicine, as a result of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, regarding the negative impact on the health of Vietnam veterans resulted in a long list of ailments approved as ‘presumptive’ diseases by the Dept. Of Veterans Affairs,” said Vietnam Veterans of America National President John Rowan. “Many Vietnam veterans have already succumbed to these ailments and more will in the future. While we are concerned, we understand that we raised our right hands and agreed to serve our country in a time of war. Our progeny did not. It is dismaying that it is possibility that these diseases have carried over to our children and grand-children. The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 will hopefully enable us to determine how long these health problems will continue to haunt our families”

Currently, many of the symptoms of toxic exposure, from Agent Orange in Vietnam to open burn pits in Iraq, are misdiagnosed in the descendants of veterans due to a lack of understanding of the health impacts of these exposures.

The Toxic Exposure Research Act:
• Requires the VA to select a VA Medical Center to research the diagnosis and treatment of descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving in the armed forces.
• Authorizes the Defense Secretary to declassify documents related to incidents in which at least 100 service members were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one disability case.
• Creates a national outreach and education campaign that is jointly led by the VA, Defense Department, and Department of Health and Human Services on toxic exposure.
• Establishes a quarterly reporting requirement on the research progress.

Earlier this month, Tester hosted multiple roundtable discussions with VA Secretary Bob McDonald in Montana where veterans raised concerns about the men and women exposed to Agent Orange who were now seeing impacts of that exposure on their children and grandchildren.

Tester previously introduced a bill that requires the VA to document the location of open-air burn pits so that troops stationed near those pits have an easier time connecting medical problems with chemical exposure.

A recap of Senator Tester’s tour with VA Secretary McDonald is available online HERE.