We Must Not Forget About Vietnam-Era Veterans

May 8, 2020
Weekly Columns

With all eyes focused on COVID-19 relief efforts, it’s easy to lose sight of others in our health care system, those with chronic illnesses or underlying medical issues. One particular group in need of assistance is veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and are suffering from severe illnesses as a result. Even as we seek to repair the flaws in our medical system and protect Americans against the spread of COVID-19, we must not forget about the men and women who served our country and yet can’t get the benefits they need.

Just over a year ago, I introduced two bills in the House to address this issue. H.R. 2200 has 53 cosponsors, and would add nine illnesses to the list of Agent Orange-related diseases covered by the VA. HR 2201 has 78 cosponsors, and expands the presumption that if members of the armed forces serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War are associated with herbicide exposures, that presumption extends to all members of the armed forces serving in Thailand at the time, regardless of rank or service on the base. This bill is based on a constituent case from my district, Mr. Bill Rhodes, who has been denied VA medical benefits even though he was exposed to Agent Orange.

It's high time we keep our promises to these veterans and give them the benefits they deserve after exposure to toxic herbicides. We have bipartisan support for both bills, and I’ll continue advocating on their behalf in D.C. I urge the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs to bring this legislation up for consideration.