Tester Leads Bill to Deliver Long-Overdue Benefits to Vietnam-Era Veterans Suffering from Toxic Exposures

(U.S. Senate) – In his continued push to provide Vietnam-era veterans their earned benefits and care, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester is leading 16 Senators in introducing bicameral legislation to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to include Hypertension and MGUS (Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance).

“Last Congress, we brought long-overdue relief to Vietnam-era veterans dealing with Hypothyroidism, Bladder Cancer, and Parkinsonism—but our fight is far from over,” said Chairman Tester. “This bicameral legislation will put an end to decades of veterans wrestling with bureaucratic red tape by expanding VA benefits and care to vets suffering from Hypertension and MGUS as a result of their service. These folks are suffering while their government makes them wait, and they can’t wait any longer.”

Tester’s Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2021 would recognize the overwhelming scientific evidence provided by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that places both Hypertension and MGUS in the “sufficient evidence of an association” category for scientific association with Agent Orange exposure—the only illnesses in this category not included on VA’s list of presumptive conditions.

Adding Hypertension and MGUS to the list of presumptive conditions would provide relief for more than 490,000 Vietnam veterans who have waited decades for scientific evidence to support their claims for health care and benefits.

“Decades after the Vietnam War, there are veterans still waiting for the care and benefits they deserve,” said Kristina Keenan, Associate Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that 'sufficient evidence of an association' exists between Agent Orange exposure and hypertension and MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. VA has yet to add these to the list of presumptive conditions even though the science shows they meet a stronger evidentiary standard than some of the previously approved conditions. The VFW supports the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act which would finally provide relief for hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans.”

“DAV applauds the introduction of the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act and its focus on justice for nearly a half-million Vietnam veterans affected by hypertension and MGUS who have waited far too long for access to VA health care and other benefits earned through their service to our nation,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Commander Stephen “Butch” Whitehead. “We thank Senator Tester and his Senate colleagues for their leadership on this issue and look forward to seeing the bill signed into law.”

“As the leading national nonprofit organization caring for all those grieving the death of a military loved one and as staunch advocates for the families of those who died as a result of illnesses connected to toxic exposure while serving in the military, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is grateful to Senator Tester for introducing the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder. “We strongly support this important legislation, which adds two diseases to the list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions, and honors our nation’s commitment to our veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.”

This bill represents the latest effort in Tester’s ongoing fight for Vietnam-era veterans. Last Congress, he successfully secured his landmark bill as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act establishing a presumption of service-connection for thousands of veterans suffering from Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.

Chairman Tester recently joined Ranking Member Jerry Moran in urging ‘decisive action’ from VA Secretary McDonough to include Hypertension to the list of presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange. Tester also called on VA to recognize and address the long-term health consequences of military toxic exposures after hearing powerful stories from veterans who served in the Vietnam and Iraq Wars on their experiences living with Hypertension and chronic lung disease—conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange and Burn Pits.

Text of the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2021 can be found HERE.

Read more on Tester’s toxic exposure efforts HERE.