Michalk, Beatty & Alcozer, L.P.

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Will Agent Orange presumptive conditions finally be expanded?

Many national lawmakers and veterans' organizations have been forcefully pushing the U.S. government for years to expand the list of conditions that presumptively qualify afflicted servicemembers for Agent Orange-linked disability benefits.

Their efforts have been routinely unavailing.

Until perhaps now, if assertions made last week by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) prove to be true.

Schumer delivered an impassioned address last week, with principals of the advocacy group Vietnam Veterans of America alongside him. He spotlighted a benefit-expansive plan that he intends to introduce as an amendment to the annual military spending bill. Schumer says that the plan has "broad bipartisan support" and that the expanded list of diseases it enumerates "will provide relief for tens of thousands of veterans."

Agent Orange is of course the highly toxic chemical widely used during the Vietnam War. The American military reportedly sprayed more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide and other toxins during the conflict.

Disability benefits for veterans suffering from exposure have been hard-earned and slow in coming. The VA currently cites14 presumptively qualifying illnesses, but a diverse and broad-based pool of advocates for change argues that the list is gallingly limited. Schumer's proposed amendment will push for these additions:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Parkinson's symptoms
  • Hypertension (i.e., elevated blood pressure)
  • Hypothyroidism

Notwithstanding Schumer's promise that the plan "will pass," it should be noted that VA leaders have persistently resisted any proposed expansion of the list. Schumer terms those objecting to expanded disability coverage "penny-pinchers."

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