Schumer Has Been Pushing To Expand List Of Diseases Associated With Exposure To ‘Agent Orange’ Herbicide That LI Vets Came Into Contact With During Vietnam War Service; But Feds Have Been Foot-Dragging—Even Blocked Action

Now, Schumer Details A National Plan From Long Island To End This Unwarranted Delay, Giving Vets Suffering From Agent Orange-Linked Conditions Like Cancer & Parkinson’s, Their Healthcare & Compensation Benefits

Schumer: This Plan Will Mean LI Vets—And Vets Across Country—Will FINALLY Get The Health Benefits They Deserve From Agent Orange Exposure

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, unveiled a national push to rightfully deliver healthcare benefits to Agent Orange-exposed veterans from Long Island, and across the country. Schumer has been on Long Island before, pushing to expand the list of diseases associated with exposure to the ‘Agent Orange’ herbicide vets came into contact with during their Vietnam War service, but the Feds have continued to foot-drag and have even blocked action. Now, Schumer is unveiling a national plan from the Island to end this unwarranted delay. He said local vets suffering from Agent Orange-linked conditions like cancer and Parkinson’s have earned their healthcare and compensation benefits and that continued delay would be unacceptable.

“We all know the adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. After a whole lot of trying on everyone’s part here, working to convince the federal government to do right by our vets who were exposed to Agent Orange during their Vietnam service—and now sick because of it—we are armed with a new plan and a new chance to end the wonder and worry our Vietnam vets across Long Island, New York and the nation have faced for far too long,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “I am here to say we will use the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to cement the veteran health benefits we have been asking for—and our Vietnam vets have been fighting for—into law, and this will deliver a huge relief locally and across the country to so many families.”

Schumer explained that our nation’s veterans, including more than 240,000 New York vets—tens-of-thousands of which are on Long Island—who bravely served during the Vietnam era and were exposed to Agent Orange have been asking the feds to do right by them and expand the list of diseases associated with the herbicide exposure. Schumer lamented that not only have the Feds been foot-dragging on action here—they have blocked action outright. Schumer, today, said the blocking will stop because with support for his push in the Senate, the law will be changed.

 With the change, the federal government will formally acknowledge the substantial proof linking bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to Agent Orange exposure, adding these conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list. This will allow veterans who are currently unable to access the healthcare and benefits they rightly deserve to rightfully gain access. Schumer said it is not just the right thing to do, but it’s the very least we owe brave New Yorkers who served and defended our country.

“Agent Orange has permanently scarred thousands of veterans, leaving a truly horrendous legacy with long-lasting genetic effects that are still being felt today. I thank Senator Schumer for fighting to expand the list of presumptive health conditions that would be covered by the Department of Veteran Affairs. This disease is a painful reminder for far too many of America’s heroes who deserve to finally see their personal fog of war lifted,” said County Executive Laura Curran.  

Schumer reiterated how long this fight has been waged. Just last year, he 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 these conditions from the presumptive conditions list. 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 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, the 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 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 it is absolutely crucial that the roughly 240,000 Vietnam-era veterans in New York State receive the healthcare benefits they need and deserve, and that this plan to use the NDAA will finally allow this to happen.  

A rough breakdown of New York State Vietnam War-era veterans by region can be found below.

  • In Long Island and New York City, there are roughly 83,952 veterans
  • In the Capital Region, there are roughly 25,384 veterans
  • In Central New York, there are roughly 16,473 veterans
  • In Western New York, there are roughly 32,108 veterans
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are roughly 18,097 veterans
  • In the Southern Tier, there are roughly 18,890 veterans
  • In the Hudson Valley, there are roughly 26,536 veterans
  • In the North Country, there are roughly 6,671 veterans


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