01.03.21

FOLLOWING NATIONAL PUSH LAUNCHED IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, SCHUMER ANNOUNCES $8 BILLION IN NEW CRITICAL HEALTH BENEFITS FOR VETS SUFFERING FROM AGENT ORANGE-LINKED ILLNESSES - INCLUDING ALMOST 240,000 NY VIETNAM VETS- PASSES IN NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL

Schumer Has Been Pushing To Expand List Of Diseases Associated With Exposure To ‘Agent Orange’ Herbicide That NY Vets Came Into Contact With During Vietnam War Service; But Feds Have Been Foot-Dragging-- Even Blocked Action—UNTIL NOW; Secures Billions For As Many As 240,000 NY Vietnam Vets  

Senator Says Legislation Ends Unwarranted Delay, Adds Parkinson’s, Bladder Cancer, And Hypothyroidism To Existing Federal List of Ailments Tied To Agent Orange Exposure, & Gives Vets Their Healthcare & Compensation Benefits  

Schumer: NY Vets Will FINALLY Get The Health Benefits They Deserve From Agent Orange Exposure

After successfully securing in July an amendment to the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which expanded the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the FY2021 NDAA included his amendment, which officially authorizes $8 billion in new benefits for vets suffering from Agent Orange-linked illnesses. Schumer explained that upon the president’s signature, nearly 240,000 veterans around the country who might be suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and parkinsonism will be able to access healthcare and benefits, numbers that have expanded because of the senator’s amendment associating additional diseases with exposure to Agent Orange.

“After years and years of suffering and fighting, I proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with our Vietnam Vets who were exposed to Agent Orange to get Congress to finally take a major step forward so they get access to the medical care they need,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s taken far too long, but I join veterans across the country in celebrating today as a victory for those who put their lives on the line finally getting the healthcare they deserve.”

Schumer added, “I’m especially proud today to have expanded access to this incoming influx of benefits by securing an amendment that adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange. Our veterans did not hesitate in the face of danger to fight for our country, and we must not nickel and dime them as they fight for their health now.”

The senator has fought for years to not only secure funding for Agent Orange-affected veterans’ health benefits, but also to increase the number of veterans who have access to those benefits. Earlier this year, Schumer unveiled his plan to add an expansion of the illnesses associated with exposure to ‘Agent Orange’ to the NDAA. The senator has previously visited Staten Island, Rochester, Albany, Utica, Dunkirk, Wallkill, and Ithaca to meet with Vietnam vets and advocate for an expansion of the associated illnesses list. Schumer said that the nation’s Vietnam veterans – over 240,000 of which are in New York – who were exposed to ‘Agent Orange,’ have been calling on the feds to expand the list of diseases associated with the herbicide exposure.

Schumer added, “I am proud to have helped our Vietnam vets cut through bureaucratic red-tape and with only the president’s signature needed, New York’s vets are closer than ever to getting the medial access they deserve.”

Schumer emphasized the importance of adding added bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of diseases associated with ‘Agent Orange’ exposure, and reiterated just how long this fight has been waged. Last year, the Senator secured a provision in the budget deal requiring OMB and the VA to issue a detailed report to Congress on the delay in adding these conditions to the presumptive conditions list, BUT the report was woefully insufficient and Schumer said those agencies failed to properly explain why they were denying veterans. In addition to the failure to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism on the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list, the VA has never acted on a 2018 National Academies report that found sufficient evidence of association between exposure to herbicides and hypertension.

Schumer also explained that per the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA automatically accepts that if a Vietnam Veteran physically served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975, it is probable that the veteran was exposed to an herbicide agent like Agent Orange. Furthermore, the Act established a list of “presumed” diseases that the VA stipulates are caused by Agent Orange exposure. Therefore, if a veteran served in Vietnam at any time between 1962-1975 and is diagnosed with one or more of the diseases VA recognizes as service connected, the VA will compensate the veteran and his or her family. However, even though there has been scientific evidence linking Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism to Agent Orange exposure, they are not currently on the VA’s list of recognized presumptive conditions.

Schumer said if an Agent Orange-related condition isn’t specifically listed on the presumptive conditions list then the VA forces the suffering veterans and their families to argue their claim in a lengthy, bureaucratic appeals process that can last years and often end in a denial.  In many cases the veteran will die before the process is even concluded. Schumer said veterans shouldn’t have to wage their own war to gather the scientific facts and medical opinions about hypothyroidism in order to receive the care and benefits needed to treat the illnesses they contracted because they served our nation. Schumer said that is absolutely crucial that thousands of Vietnam-era veterans in New York State receive the healthcare benefits they need and deserve, and final passage of his amendment in the NDAA will allow that to happen.

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