ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Senator Chuck Schumer spoke at the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post alongside Capital Region Vietnam War veterans Monday morning. He wants the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to include four more health conditions to the list of those recognized as being attributed to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The Agent Orange Act passed in 1991, allowed Vietnam Vets exposed to the herbicide with chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers (including lung cancer) and soft tissue sarcomas to receive medical and/or financial compensation.
Sen. Schumer wants the VA and OMB to also include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism hypertension and veterans with Parkinsonism (Parkinson-like symptoms). He said OMB ignored a 2016 report from the National Academies recommending these health-conditions be added to the list of illnesses caused by Agent Orange.
“There are likely thousands of veterans in New York, who are fighting illnesses directly related to Agent Orange and their military service but because they got the ‘wrong’ disease, they can’t get access to sorely-needed health benefits,” Sen. Schumer said. “If an Agent Orange-related condition isn’t specifically included 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,” he said.
There were 838,129 veterans living in New York, according to the New York State Health Foundation’s 2017 veteran report. Vietnam veterans make up 32% of that number, approximately 269,000.
The effects of Agent Orange have also been seen and studied in the children of exposed veterans, particularly among exposed women veterans. The VA recognizes some cases of spina bifida in the children of Vietnam or Korean War veterans exposed to Agent Orange as a qualifying condition for VA benefits. In their 2018 report highlights, the National Academies said more studies needed to be done on the effects of Agent Orange passed down through exposed fathers.
Sen. Schumer said there is a possibility of further studies on the effects of Agent Orange on the children of exposed veterans in the future.