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Veterans can’t get coverage for some Agent Orange issues. A congressman is fixing that

U.S. Representative JOSH HARDER (D-CA). (Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Wire/TNS)
December 14, 2020

Three serious health issues caused by Agent Orange aren’t covered by the government-funded health care for veterans, but now likely will be after the National Defense Authorization Act is passed.

The VA currently doesn’t cover health care expenses of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide the military used during the Vietnam War, for bladder cancer, Parkinson’s symptoms and hypothyroidism.

California’s Rep. Josh Harder, a Democrat, introduced a bill earlier this year to get those three health problems, plus hypertension, included in Veterans Affairs benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. There is comprehensive medical evidence that Agent Orange leads to those diseases.

An estimated 83,000 veterans have one of the three conditions that would be added to the list of “presumptive conditions,” ailments that are presumed to be connected to Agent Orange.

The language of Harder’s bill was first tacked on to the House version of the NDAA, which Congress must pass to fund the Department of Defense. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, made sure it was included in the Senate’s version, which ensures it will be in the final bill. Hypertension was not included in the language tacked on to the NDAA.

“This is an incredible day for veterans who have waited decades to get the care they deserve — Congress has spent years paying lip-service to vets, but thanks to our bipartisan efforts we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Harder said in a statement Thursday. “I want to thank Senator Tester for introducing my bill in the Senate and ensuring it was included in the final version of the defense bill.”

While the NDAA must pass eventually, it currently faces some headwinds. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation unless it repeals a federal law known as Section 230. Section 230 protects social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from being sued for the words or language of users who are on their platforms.

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(c) 2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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