Today, Representative Mike Michaud, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, reintroduced a bill to help Maine veterans concerned about Agent Orange and herbicide exposure at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not have comprehensive data on the veterans who applied for compensation based on their exposure at CFB Gagetown. The bill Michaud reintroduced today would establish a voluntary CFB Gagetown Registry containing the names of veterans who apply for care or services from the VA based on a condition linked to their time at CFB Gagetown. The legislation would also provide a health exam to these veterans at their request. A registry would allow these veterans to officially list their possibly service-connected illnesses and increase opportunities for outreach and research.
"No veteran should be denied the care they have earned. It's extremely frustrating that the VA doesn't track these concerns," said Michaud. "This is not a new issue, and the VA must improve its ability to reach out to veterans who may face special challenges in establishing service-connection. A registry will provide us more information to get a better handle on the full scope of the problem, and I believe it's a critical first step toward helping these veterans get the care they need."
For years, many members of the Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island National Guard and Reserves trained at Gagetown. In 2007, the Canadian government admitted that Agent Orange, Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides were tested at Gagetown and began paying settlements to Canadian veterans. While U.S. veterans trained at Gagetown after the testing period, many still have concerns that they were exposed to toxic levels of both registered and unregistered herbicides.
Reps. Chellie Pingree and Peter Welch are original cosponsors of Michaud's bill.