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Casey asks Trump administration to change Agent Orange policy affecting veterans’ health benefits

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (Air Force/Released)

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and a colleague have asked the Trump administration to reconsider a decision to not have illnesses linked to Agent Orange considered presumptive conditions for thousands of Vietnam War veterans.

Casey, D-Scranton, and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie on Wednesday, saying the decision blocks disability compensation and health benefits for about 83,000 veterans.

“The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) decision to exclude bladder cancer, hypertension, Parkinsonism, and hypothyroidism as diseases linked to Agent Orange is frustrating and unfair,” the senators wrote.

Casey and Bennet argued that the National Academies of Medicine (NAM) conducted a federally mandated study on the effects of Agent Orange exposure, as well as other chemicals used during the Vietnam War.

The 2016 NAM report concluded that there is “sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to at least one of the chemicals of interest and hypertension,” and “limited and suggestive evidence” of links between Agent Orange exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism.

“By refusing to include these illnesses on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of Agent Orange presumptive benefits, OMB is acting in direct opposition to the NAM’s analysis of peer-reviewed reports that suggest otherwise,” the senators wrote.

Casey and Bennet also said they were concerned about a delay in implementing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which was signed into law on June 25 and would extend Agent Orange benefits to veterans who served aboard ships offshore and in the harbors of Vietnam.

“These veterans and their families have waited long enough for access to the benefits for which they are eligible and desperately need,” Casey and Bennet wrote. “The administration should prioritize and process these claims as soon as possible.”


© 2019 the Beaver County Times