Rehberg Sponsors Bill to Provide Healthcare to Agent Orange Vets
Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today sponsored legislation to extend healthcare to all veterans who were subject to Agent Orange.
"The brave men and women who served in Vietnam deserve good, quality healthcare," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has fought every effort to expand this healthcare to those who supported the war efforts from air and sea. This bill would correct that misguided policy."
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires Vietnam veterans to prove "foot on land" in order to qualify for medical care for Agent Orange related illnesses. This requirement excludes three major classes of personnel who were potentially exposed to Agent Orange: swift boat veterans who operated in inland waterways, but were not stationed on land; personnel who served aboard offshore vessels which handled, or stored Agent Orange; and finally, airman who flew in Vietnamese airspace.
The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 would clarify federal law so that every service member awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. As a result, the bill would ensure the VA processes Vietnam War veterans' claims for service-connected conditions that scientists have conclusively linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War.
"We can't cut corners when it comes to veteran's health," said Rehberg. "It's the federal government that put these troops in the wrong place at the wrong time and it's our job to fix it."
Rehberg is a lead sponsor of similar legislation to provide healthcare to victims of the Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) Project. Project SHAD, was conducted between 1963 and 1973 by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. During these projects, a number of weapons containing chemical and biological agents such as VX nerve gas, Sarin Nerve Gas and E. Coli were tested on unknowing military personnel.