(Updated Feb. 4)
The VA just released its reasons for delaying presumption on four illnesses connected to Agent Orange. The four presumptives -- bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson's-like symptoms, and hypertension -- affect at least an estimated 83,000 veterans.
The VA needed to release reasons for coverage delays, the estimated costs of coverage, and the anticipated date of coverage by Jan. 20, 2020, as mandated by Congress in the annual appropriations bill.
In its report, the VA announced plans to delay coverage to await the results of additional research. This decision is puzzling since the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) level of scrutiny has been met for the VA to add these presumptives to the list of veterans’ diseases associated with Agent Orange. NASEM’s reports stated that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and hypertension fall among the health problems linked to Agent Orange exposure.
In November 2019, MOAA signed onto a letter with 20 other military and veterans service organizations calling for the VA to cover these conditions. In addition to attention from the military and veteran community, Congress has continued to follow this issue closely, with leadership from both the House and Senate.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the report “particularly troubling because the administration is denying the overwhelming scientific evidence that has already been put forth, and is instead changing the rules by seemingly forcing veterans with bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and hypertension to meet a different — perhaps unattainable — standard.”
With the VA challenging the scientific community and requiring additional studies, as occurred with the Blue Water Navy Act (H.R. 299), more congressional action is required to get the VA to take care of veterans. Please reach out to your representative and ask them to support H.R. 5610, the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act, which will mandate the VA cover these four illnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure.