Tester Secures Vote on his Landmark Bill to Provide Benefits to Vets Exposed to Agent Orange as Part of Must-Pass Annual Defense Legislation
Senator’s bipartisan Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act clears key hurdle; bill requires VA to provide benefits for veterans suffering from diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange
U.S. Senator Jon Tester successfully secured his landmark Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – a must-pass annual defense bill that the Senate will vote on later this month. Tester’s bill requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide benefits for veterans suffering from diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Currently, thousands of Vietnam veterans living with chronic health conditions developed as a result of their service are being denied critical benefits and health care from VA. Tester’s amendment would provide a presumption of service-connection—based on scientific review by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM)—for Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism. Under a presumption of service-connection, veterans suffering from these three conditions would be eligible for essential benefits and care under VA.
“Justice is long overdue for our aging veterans currently dying from conditions resulting from their exposure to Agent Orange chemicals in Vietnam,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The reality is that taking care of our veterans is the cost of war—and it must be paid. By adding my bill to do that to the Senate’s must-pass annual defense bill, we are living up to the promises made to those who served by ensuring they get the care and benefits they’ve earned.”
In addition to the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act, Tester also successfully included an amendment to allow veterans to access their toxic exposure records online from VA or the Department of Defense.
For years, Tester has fought tirelessly in Congress to ensure Vietnam veterans get the treatment and benefits they have earned. In September 2017, Tester led a group of Senators in pressuring VA to make a decision on NAM’s recommendations regarding expanding the list of presumptive conditions. Tester continued his push in September 2018, urging the Department to take action by expanding its list of medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange and repeated the call in March 2018. In April 2018, Tester urged the Office of Management and Budget to assist the VA in this effort.
In January, Tester led 42 Senators in blasting the Trump Administration for stonewalling critical benefits for more than 190,000 Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions connected with their service. He also held a roundtable discussion last month with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), stakeholders, and veterans’ advocates to address longstanding issues associated with the effects of toxic exposures on our nation’s servicemembers and veterans.
This bill is supported by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), AMVETS, and Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).