WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today joined their Democratic colleagues in condemning the Trump Administration for stonewalling critical benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange. The Senators specifically called on the Administration to stop denying scientific evidence, and end the years-long delay of adding Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of service-connected presumptive conditions.
“Your Administration’s refusal to add these conditions to the presumptive list continues to deny more than 190,000 sick and aging veterans the health care and compensation they have earned and desperately need,” the Senators wrote in a letter to President Trump. “More than fifty years after their service and sacrifice, these veterans continue to suffer the detrimental effects of their exposure each day. These heroes deserve more than inaction and indecision from their own government— they deserve justice.”
Since the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA has established a presumption of service-connection for 14 diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reports. However, in a recent report required by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill, VA called into question the scientific evidence put forth by the National Academies of Medicine (NAM), noting “significant concerns and limitations” in the findings of NASEM scientists. VA also cited additional requirements in the Department’s standards for presumptive conditions, delaying the consideration of care and compensation for thousands of suffering veterans.
"NAM’s reports have been the standard for scientific evidence of association for more than twenty years,” the Senators continued. “But it is now clear that your Administration is intent on changing the rules at the eleventh hour and forcing veterans with Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension to meet a different—perhaps unattainable— standard. That is unacceptable.”
New Jersey is home to 124,427 Vietnam era veterans living in New Jersey, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.
Sen. Menendez was an original cosponsor and helped pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to expand access for thousands of Vietnam veterans serving on bays, harbors and territorial seas to treatment for Agent Orange exposure.
The letter was also signed by Sens. John Tester (D-Mont.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
A copy of the letter can be found here.
April 22, 2021