The Senate will vote on an amendment to the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would expand VA benefits available to Vietnam veterans exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange, adding conditions scientifically linked to such exposure.
The amendment, put forward by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the list of veterans’ diseases associated with Agent Orange. Tester’s office announced the amendment in a press release just before Independence Day.
The amendment mirrors the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 (S. 3444), a bill Tester introduced in March that included the three conditions above as well as hypertension. This condition likely was eliminated as part of a compromise to reduce the cost and allow the amendment to be put forward for a vote.
The amendment has 40 cosponsors, showing interest for inclusion in this year’s NDAA. Votes are planned when the Senate returns from recess July 20, but there is limited time to gain the support required to get the provision passed the chamber. The amendment making the short list is a promising sign, but it does not guarantee inclusion.
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If passed by the Senate and adopted in the final version of the NDAA, the tens of thousands of veterans suffering from these conditions would be able to connect their illnesses to their service in Vietnam.
While the scientific analysis by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is associated at the standards required to add the conditions to the list of presumptives, VA contests the results and wants to wait for additional studies that are due later this year before making a final decision.
As MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), stated earlier this year, the “scientific evidence linking the four presumptives with Agent Orange exists and should be accepted. We must act and ensure these veterans receive the care they need.”
With less than two weeks before the Senate returns to vote on the NDAA, your senators need to hear your voice. Act now and share your support for the inclusion of this amendment in the NDAA.