Rep. Westerman Testifies Before House VA Committee on Agent Orange Bill
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday (May 16). In his testimony, Westerman discussed his legislation, H.R. 4843, which modifies the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Last Tuesday (May 8), the Committee marked up H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Act, which included language from Westerman’s bill which provides coverage for children with Spina Bifida whose parents served in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Westerman’s testimony (as prepared):
Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz, I would like to thank you for hosting today’s bipartisan Member Speaking Day. It is an honor to speak on behalf of veterans in Arkansas Fourth District, and I appreciate this opportunity.
Today I would like to discuss my legislation, H.R. 4843, which modifies the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Currently, VA statutes and regulations do not automatically recognize veteran exposure to herbicides while serving in Thailand.
My bill would provide veterans greater equity with respect to herbicide exposure and the presumptive diseases associated with these chemicals.
Included in this Committee’s markup of the Blue Water Navy Act last week was language from my bill that provides coverage for children with Spina Bifida. I would like to thank you for including this crucial language.
The Blue Water Navy Act is a great first step to provide veterans and their families with the coverage, care, and benefits they earned and deserve. But, there is still a lot of work to be done.
I think it is pretty cut and dry. If you served America through the Armed Forces, and were exposed to herbicides, our country owes you a debt to cover those medical expenses.
Soldiers are told they will receive benefits and care through the VA because of their service, but the reality is that many of these benefits have limits and exclusions. Too often, veterans don’t get what they have been promised.
These men and women made great sacrifices to protect our country, and they deserve the best care and benefits possible.
Thank you again for this opportunity to speak, and I look forward to working together to help our nation’s veterans.