(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s landmark bill delivering benefits and care to Vietnam veterans suffering from diseases and conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange is headed to the President’s desk after passing the Senate today as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. Tester’s legislation establishes a presumption of service connection for more than 34,000 veterans suffering from Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.
“With the passage of my Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act, we are now one step away from changing the lives of Vietnam veterans from Montana and across the country suffering from wounds of war as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange,” said Tester. “After countless delays, I’m proud that Congress came together to do right by our veterans and deliver on our sacred promise to pay the cost of war. I urge the President to quickly sign the annual defense bill into law, so that we may provide long-overdue benefits and care to those who served and sacrificed.”
Tester secured his Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act in the final NDAA after successfully including his provision in the annual Senate defense bill earlier this year. In September, he led 45 Senators in urging leadership from the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to adopt his amendment in the final NDAA conference report, and repeated his call on the Senate floor.
“The NDAA’s inclusion of Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism recognizes both the National Academies’ scientific evidence and illnesses that veterans have been waiting on for years that stem from exposures to Agent Orange that occurred nearly 50 years ago,” said President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Lieutenant General Dana Atkins. “We thank Senator Tester and all who worked on this provision to ensure those who fought for our country are not forgotten. Now, we must continue in the tradition of the past 59 years and pass the NDAA to provide needed benefits to thousands of ill veterans and all the other necessary provisions to support our national security.”
“The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is grateful to Senator Jon Tester for securing three additional Agent Orange presumptive conditions in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act,” said President and Founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Bonnie Carroll. “Our Vietnam veterans, their families, and survivors will now receive the healthcare and benefits they have earned through service and sacrifice. TAPS looks forward to the President signing this critical legislation into law.”
“For too long, our Vietnam veterans have had to fight for—and have been denied—the critical healthcare they need to treat medical conditions resulting from exposure to Agent Orange," said National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford of The American Legion. "The American Legion was pleased to support Senator Tester’s amendment included in the FY 2021 NDAA addressing three serious health issues caused by Agent Orange. We urge President Trump to sign the measure into law when Congress sends him this critical legislation and end the waiting for many of our nation's ill veterans so they can receive the benefits they have rightly earned.”
“Wounded Warrior Project was proud to stand with our TEAM Coalition partners and Senator Tester to ensure that his amendment to add diseases to the list of presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange are included in the final version of the FY21 NDAA,” said Vice President of Government & Community Relations at the Wounded Warrior Project, Jose Ramos. “The ongoing issue of toxic exposures is a high priority for WWP, and we strongly believe veterans of all eras who suffered toxic wounds should get the care and benefits they deserve. We thank Senator Tester for his leadership on this issue and look forward to seeing these changes become law.”
"The VFW commends the Senate and House Armed Services Committees conferees of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 for including Senate Amendment 1972 in the final version of the bill. We thank Senator Tester for introducing this important amendment which will finally add Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of Department of Veterans Affairs’ presumptive conditions for herbicide exposure," said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Commander Hal Roesch. "We urge President Trump to sign the NDAA into law and provide our Vietnam veterans the long-awaited care and benefits they deserve."
“For years, DAV has been at the forefront in fighting to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism as presumptive to Agent Orange,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Commander Stephen Whitehead. “We thank Senator Tester for his unrelenting advocacy and legislative actions to add these three diseases as presumptive to Agent Orange exposure in this year’s NDAA. If signed into law, this will result in thousands of veterans gaining access to critical VA benefits and health care—a life-changing and in some cases life-saving action that is long overdue.”
“TREA: The Enlisted Association commends the Congress for taking long overdue action to add presumptive conditions in the NDAA for FY 2021 related to exposure to Agent Orange (Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism),” said Director of Veterans and Military Policy at TREA: The Enlisted Association, Ken Greenberg. “Thousands of Vietnam veterans and many TREA members will now be eligible for compensation from VA. TREA appreciates the leadership of SVAC Ranking Member Jon Tester, Chairman Jerry Moran and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee staff to secure the provisions in the final NDAA.”
"PVA applauds the decision to retain Senator Tester’s provision establishing a presumption of service connection for three additional Agent Orange-related conditions in the final FY 2021 NDAA,” said Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “Its inclusion signals an end to a decades-long fight for thousands of deserving Vietnam War Veterans, and we encourage the President to sign this bill."
“Senator Tester’s bipartisan amendment adds Parkinsonism, along with two other diseases, to the VA list of presumptive illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure,” said Ted Thompson, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “Because of his leadership, veterans will now have access to the health care services they need and deserve. After this legislation passes, thousands of veterans will no longer experience unnecessary delays in the care and treatment of their Parkinson’s-like conditions.”
As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester has fought tirelessly to provide benefits for veterans suffering from diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In 2017, the Senator led the charge to expand VA’s list of these medical conditions, doubled down on his push in 2018, and later urged the Office of Management and Budget to assist the Department in this effort.
Earlier this year, Tester led 42 Senators in blasting the Administration for stonewalling critical benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions connected with their service. He also held a roundtable discussion with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), stakeholders, and veterans’ advocates to address longstanding issues associated with the effects of toxic exposures on our nation’s servicemembers and veterans.