Note from MOAA: Language adding three conditions to the list of Agent Orange presumptives is under threat as National Defense Authorization Act negotiations move forward. More than ever, it’s critical to call and write your lawmakers TODAY to encourage their support. Already talked to your lawmaker? See these instructions on how to contact House and Senate leadership.
More than 100 representatives released a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership urging them to retain the addition of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of conditions presumed connected to Agent Orange exposure as part of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“Our Vietnam veterans should not have to wait any longer for the recognition they deserve and the benefits they are owed,” states the letter, signed by 111 representatives and led by Reps. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) “Ensuring this bipartisan and bicameral amendment remains in the final NDAA bill will mean that thousands of veterans will finally get the support they need due to their sacrifice and service.”
This letter comes after a similar letter was sent by 46 senators sharing their support. The original provision was included in the NDAA after Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) included the provision which passed the Senate by a 94-6 vote.
In addition to strong support among lawmakers, over 30 veterans service organizations are on the record backing the addition of these Agent Orange-connected illnesses. Despite the strong base of support, passing this provision is an uphill battle.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the price tag on this provision at just under $8 billion over 10 years. Sources are concerned that this cost will leave lawmakers balking at this provision. MOAA believes cost should not be a barrier to providing these long-delayed earned benefits to our Vietnam veterans; now, lawmakers need to hear this message from their constituents.
This is one of the final issues for legislators to resolve as they negotiate NDAA provisions.
An estimated 34,000 Vietnam veterans stand to benefit from the addition of these three Agent Orange presumptives. These veterans were loyal to our country, and we need to maintain our loyalty to them and hold Congress accountable. Call or write your lawmakers today.
After you've let your lawmakers know your stance on this critical portion of the NDAA, it's important to ensure leadership at all levels of both the House and Senate understand the widespread support of this benefit expansion. Below are direct numbers to the offices of many of these leaders; consider taking a few minutes and reaching out on behalf of Vietnam veterans seeking long-deserved benefits.
Some possible talking points:
- If you've been personally impacted by Agent Orange in some way, share some details with the staffer so they can understand why you care about the issue.
- Note that the Senate passed a measure overwhelmingly by a vote of 94-6 that would provide VA coverage of three conditions linked to Agent Orange. Tens of thousands of veterans are estimated to be impacted by these "presumptives": bladder cancer, Parkinson's-like symptoms, and hypothyroidism.
- Cite evidence from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) that has repeatedly proven these presumptives are sufficiently connected to Agent Orange and should join the list of conditions already covered by the VA.
- Mention this provision is supported by over 30 veterans service organizations and is supported in Congress on a bipartisan basis.
- Note your concern that the VA has not listened to the overwhelming scientific evidence provided by the NASEM and seeks to delay with additional studies, which is why we need Congress to act.
“I ask that you support Senate Section 1090B. Please do all that you can to ensure it stays in the final version of the NDAA.”
- Speaker of the House: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): 202-225-4965
- Minority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.): 202-225-2915
- Majority Leader: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): 202-224-2541
- Minority Leader: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): 202-224-6542
House Armed Services Committee
- Chairman: Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): 202-225-8901
- Ranking Member: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas): 202-225-3706
Senate Armed Services Committee
- Chairman: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.): 202-224-4721
- Ranking Member: Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): 202-224-4642
House Veterans Affairs Committee
- Chairman: Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.): 202-225-2305
- Ranking Member: Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.): 202-225-6356
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
- Chairman: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.): 202-224-6521