Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg is sponsoring legislation to improve health care access for veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. The Agent Orange Equity Act broadens the definition of those eligible to receive aid for potential Agent Orange exposure.
"The fact that America's use of chemical weapons has caused hardship for our soldiers and their families can't be swept under the rug," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "It's unacceptable for the federal government to cut corners in the necessary treatment for those who have paid the high price of putting their lives on the line in defense of our country. This is the right thing to do."
Agent Orange is a chemical defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Some veterans exposed to the agent have experienced a variety of health problems. Because dioxin from Agent Orange builds up in the body over time, veterans are still being diagnosed with Agent Orange related illnesses today.
Under current guidelines, veterans suffering from Agent Orange-related illnesses must show they served with their "boots on land" to receive aid for the exposure. This narrow definition excludes men and women who served in offshore vessels or in the vicinity where the chemical was stored and used. The Agent Orange Equity Act would broaden the definition to include veterans who served in inland waterways, ports, harbors, and the airspace above Vietnam.
Rehberg sponsored similar legislation in the 110th Congress. He is also a lead sponsor of legislation to provide healthcare to victims of the Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) Project, where weapons containing chemical and biological agents were tested on unknowing American military personnel. Montana has one of the highest percentages of U.S. veterans per capita, with 1 in every 10 residents having served in the military.