Bennet, Casey Urge Administration to Stop Obstructing Efforts to Deliver Benefits to Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

Denver – Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Trump Administration officials urging them to stop obstructing access to health benefits and disability compensation for approximately 83,000 veterans, some from Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Following a federally-mandated National Academies of Medicine (NAM) study on the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange, Office of Management and Budget Director (OMB) Mick Mulvaney declined to include illnesses determined by the NAM study to be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals used during the Vietnam War as presumptive conditions.

“By refusing to include these illnesses on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of Agent Orange presumptive benefits, OMB is acting in direct opposition to the NAM’s analysis of peer-reviewed reports that suggest otherwise,” wrote Bennet and Casey in their letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie and OMB Director Mulvaney. “We encourage you to acknowledge the scientific based evidence and the recommendation of the previous VA Secretary David Shulkin, and designate these conditions to the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure.”

The senators also expressed concern over the delay in implementation of new legislation to expand Agent Orange benefits to Navy Vietnam veterans, demanding the administration prioritize and process their claims as soon as possible.

“These veterans and their families have waited long enough for access to the benefits for which they are eligible and desperately need,” wrote the senators. “Our nation must live up to the promises it has made to the men and women who have sacrificed much by serving in uniform.”

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Director Mulvaney and Secretary Wilkie:

 We write to express our serious concern regarding delays for veterans who are suffering from illnesses related to their exposure to Agent Orange. The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) decision to exclude bladder cancer, hypertension, Parkinsonism, and hypothyroidism as diseases linked to Agent Orange is frustrating and unfair. This delay denies approximately 83,000 veterans, many from Colorado and Pennsylvania, faster access to disability compensation and health benefits.

 As you know, Congress has mandated that the National Academies of Medicine (NAM) publish updated reports that comprehensively evaluate scientific and medical information about the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War. The 2016 NAM report Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2014 states, “sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to at least one of the chemicals of interest and hypertension.” This report also determined there is “limited and suggestive evidence” that offers a link between Agent Orange exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. By refusing to include these illnesses on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of Agent Orange presumptive benefits, OMB is acting in direct opposition to the NAM’s analysis of peer-reviewed reports that suggest otherwise. We encourage you to acknowledge the scientific based evidence and the recommendation of the previous VA Secretary David Shulkin, and designate these conditions to the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure. 

 We are also concerned by the delay in the implementation of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, signed into law on June 25, which expands Agent Orange benefits to veterans who served aboard ships offshore and in the harbors of Vietnam. These veterans and their families have waited long enough for access to the benefits for which they are eligible and desperately need. The administration should prioritize and process these claims as soon as possible.

 Our nation must live up to the promises it has made to the men and women who have sacrificed much by serving in uniform. Thank you and we look forward to your response.

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