Tester Hears 2021 Legislative Priorities from Veterans of Foreign Wars

At annual legislative presentation from leading Veterans Service Organizations, Chairman made efforts on behalf of veterans exposed to toxic exposure “top priority”

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(U.S. Senate) – Chairman Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today oversaw a joint Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs’ hearing to discuss the legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and other leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) for this year.

During the hearing, Tester stressed the critical need to find common ground on toxic exposure issues and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to include Hypertension and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS).

“I know that toxic exposure is a top priority for the VFW—and I very much appreciate that as it’s a top priority for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee,” said Chairman Tester. “…As you pointed out in your opening statement, this isn’t the first time toxic exposure has been around and it’s probably not going to be the last. And you’d like to see some kind of mechanism out there, based on science, to provide veterans with certainty that if they get these exposures, they’ll be covered. Is that correct from VFW’s point of view?”

“Absolutely,” replied Hal Roesch, VFW National Commander. “We need a framework that is not a part of the DoD [Department of Defense] or VA—that is separate and independent with the Academy. That way, we can have the science and the medical, in conjunction with the VSOs, that will set the bar to where we have that scientific correlation. And we set the bar so that anything above that needs to be recognized.”

The VFW affirmed their commitment to helping the Committee develop a comprehensive solution for veterans to receive health care and benefits for toxic exposures, including efforts to require VA to act on the National Academies recommendations to include Hypertension and MGUS to the list of presumptive conditions. They also relayed the need to help secure additional COVID-19 vaccines for VA and address vaccine hesitancy among veterans.  

The second panel included presentations from AMVETS, Fleet Reserve Association, Gold Star Wives, National Congress of American Indians, and National Association for Black Veterans.

In his continued push to provide Vietnam-era veterans their earned benefits and care, Tester led 16 Senators yesterday in introducing bicameral legislation to expand VA’s list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange. He also 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’s opening statement as prepared for delivery can be found HERE.

Tester’s full Q&A is available HERE.