WASHINGTON, October 22 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the veterans committee, today hailed President Barack Obama’s signing of legislation establishing advanced funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the department’s recent acceptance of the connection between Agent Orange and devastating diseases.
President Obama signed legislation today providing health care funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) one year in advance to better plan and manage their facilities including the ability to hire and train the right number of staff to take care of our veterans.
Sanders, an original co-sponsor of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, said, “After years of work by our nation’s veterans organizations and their allies here in Congress, we have finally passed legislation that will make sure the VA gets its health care budget on time so that it can worry about its number one priority: care for our nation’s veterans. Only three times over the last two decades has Congress provided the VA with its budget on time. This law will change that.”
In another important development, after years of pressure from veterans groups, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced last week that the VA has decided to accept the connection between Agent Orange exposure and Parkinson’s disease, B cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease. Veterans who have a presumed illness and served in Vietnam will no longer need to prove an association between their illness and their military service.
Shinseki’s action embraced legislation that Sanders introduced in the Senate earlier this year which would have added Parkinson’s disease to the list of diseases presumed to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange and enhanced veterans’ ability to have their claims for compensation approved by the government.
Sanders stated, “I want to congratulate President Obama and Secretary Shinseki for making this decision to greatly simplify the application process for veterans with Parkinson’s and other Agent Orange-related diseases and bring them the care they need and deserve. I also commend all of the veterans groups that pushed for this change, particularly the Vietnam Veterans of America, for their years of work on this issue.”
Veterans who have previously had claims rejected or who have never submitted claims for these Agent Orange-related illness should contact their local VA health facility.
Additional information about Agent Orange and VA’s services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available here.
The White River Junction VA can be contacted Toll-Free at (866) 687-8387 or locally at 802-295-9363.
The VA’s announcement on the change in Agent Orange policy can be found here.