Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, has cosponsored H.R. 812, the Agent Orange Equity Act. This measure, sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), would clarify the definition of a Vietnam veteran in order to extend benefits to all veterans suffering from Agent Orange induced illnesses.
"The men and women who bravely served their country in Vietnam have earned every bit of the care we can give them," said Rehberg. "We shouldn't be subjecting them to more political and bureaucratic hurdles caused by restrictive legal definitions. To Montana's vets, I say that if you were hurt as a result of your military service, our country has an obligation -- and the honor -- to provide you with the care you deserve. This legislation does just that."
Agent Orange is the code name for an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. After their service in Vietnam, many veterans reported a variety of health problems and concerns which have been attributed to exposure to Agent Orange. Because dioxin from Agent Orange builds up in the body over time, veterans are still being diagnosed with Agent Orange related illnesses today.
Currently, Vietnam veterans suffering from diseases must show that they served with their "boots on land." Unfortunately, this narrow definition excludes men who served in offshore vessels or in the vicinity of Vietnam, but who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. The Agent Orange Equity Act provides a much broader definition of a Vietnam veteran to include service in inland waterways, ports, waters offshore, and harbors of and the airspace above the Republic of Vietnam.
"The American Legion applauds Congressman Rehberg's efforts to ensure that the victims of Agent Orange are given the benefits the deserve," said Tim Tetz, Director, National Legislative Commission for the American Legion. "Clearly, he hasn't forgotten the service of our brave men and women who wore the uniform."