NEWS FROM…

CHAIRMAN BOB FILNER

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 2008

http://veterans.house.gov


Veterans Cheated of Their Benefits

VA and Courts Ignore Promises Made to Veterans: CONGRESS MUST ACT


Washington, D.C. – Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will hold a press conference on Wednesday, July 23 at NOON on the Cannon Terrace to announce the introduction of the Agent Orange Equity Act. The bill restores equity to all Vietnam veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange.

Who:
Chairman Bob Filner, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
William G. Jeff Davis, Blue Water Veteran
Ron Abrams, Executive Director, National Veterans Legal Services Program
John Rowan, Vietnam Veterans of America

What:
Introduction of the Agent Orange Equity Act, a bill to ensure that veterans receive their earned benefits.

When:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at Noon

Where:
Cannon House Office Building Terrace
The intersection of New Jersey and Independence Avenues, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20515

“We owe it to our veterans to fulfill the promises made to them as a result of their service,” said Chairman Filner (D-CA). “If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would. And as a country at war, we must prove that we will be there for all of our veterans, no matter when they serve. The courts have turned their backs on our veterans, but I believe this Congress will not allow our veterans to be cheated of their earned benefits.”

The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure. In order to try to gain a better military vantage point, Agent Orange, which we now know is a highly toxic cocktail of herbicide agents, was widely sprayed for defoliation and crop destruction purposes all over the Vietnam War Battlefield, as well as nearby nations. It was also stored on U.S. vessels and used for vegetation clearing purposes around U.S. bases, landing zones and lines of communication.

Currently, VA requires Vietnam veterans to prove “foot on land” in order to qualify for the presumptions of service-connection for herbicide-exposure related illnesses afforded under current law. This issue has been the subject of much litigation and on May 8, 2008, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld VA’s overly narrow interpretation. Congress clearly did not intend to exclude these veterans from compensation based on arbitrary geographic line drawing by VA.

The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008 is intended to clarify the law so that every service member awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea or air, in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991. If enacted, this bill will make it easier for VA to process Vietnam War veterans’ claims for service-connected conditions that scientists have conclusively linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War and that are identified in current law. With this legislation, Congress will leave no doubt that the “Blue Water Navy” and all combat veterans of Vietnam are intended to be covered and compensated; thus ensuring that these veterans will receive the disability benefits they earned and deserve for exposure to Agent Orange.


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