Shaheen, Hassan Sponsor Bill Directing VA to ‘do its job’ and Provide Benefits for Veterans Suffering from Agent Orange

March 15, 2020

** Shaheen, Hassan, Tester and 32 Senators on bill to add Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension to list of service-connected presumptive conditions** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are sponsoring legislation authored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) which would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide benefits for veterans suffering from four diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Currently, veterans with specific health conditions developed as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are eligible for benefits and health care from VA. However, the Trump Administration continues to deny coverage for approximately 190,000 veterans struggling with Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension—four conditions scientifically proven to have an association with exposure to the toxic herbicide. The Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 would add these illnesses to VA’s list of service-connected presumptive conditions and provide essential benefits and care to Vietnam veterans.

“Vietnam veterans served our country with honor, courage and distinction – yet those who are experiencing serious health conditions as a result of their wartime exposure to Agent Orange are being denied access to lifesaving medical treatment. This is an injustice and must be corrected,” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation will right this wrong and help ensure the 190,000 Vietnam veterans suffering from these illnesses can finally receive the benefits and care they’ve earned and desperately need. I will never stop fighting for our veterans and will continue to do everything in my power to honor their service to our nation.”

“It is unconscionable to deny coverage to thousands of Vietnam War veterans who have contracted certain diseases as a result of toxic exposure to Agent Orange during the war,” Senator Hassan said. “I joined colleagues in introducing this legislation to ensure that these veterans receive the benefits that they need and have earned. I will continue working to make sure that our country is ever-worthy of the sacrifices made by veterans, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation.”

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have been outspoken critics of the continued delays in justice for Vietnam veterans suffering from service-connected illnesses. They continue to be Congress’ top ally and strongest advocates in expanding VA’s list of presumptive conditions.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of Granite State veterans. Shaheen and Hassan were cosponsors of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which was signed into law last June and will create a permanent legislative fix to help ensure “Blue Water” Navy veterans get the disability and health care benefits they deserve as a result of exposure to the dangerous pesticide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In December 2019, Shaheen sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie requesting that the Department explain its delay in addressing the backlog of payment claims to health care providers in the community. The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law the same month included a provision Shaheen and Hassan fought for that eliminates the military “widow’s tax” that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DOD) and VA survivor benefits. Last November, Shaheen introduced legislation, the Acupuncture for our Heroes Act, to expand access to acupuncturist services for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system and provide an alternative to opioids for veterans suffering from chronic pain. In June 2019, Shaheen and Hassan sent a letter to the VA requesting information on the Department’s plans to repay $286.4 million in home loan fees that were erroneously charged to thousands of exempted veterans as part of the VA Home Loan Program.

In 2018, Senator Shaheen worked to include a provision in the VA MISSION Act – which was signed into law – ensuring every veteran in New Hampshire has access to care in the community. This was a top priority for Shaheen as New Hampshire does not have a full-service VA medical facility. Under the previous VA community care program, Senator Shaheen introduced the Veterans Choice Card Prompt Payment Act to expedite payment to providers who serve veterans.