Washington – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) reintroduced the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act in the 116th Congress with Congressman Don Young (AK-At Large) and Congressman John Larson (CT-01). This bipartisan bill removes onerous manifestation requirements from certain diseases which the VA has linked to Agent Orange exposure. Congressman Courtney first introduced this bill in July 2018 after working with Gerry Wright, a Vietnam veteran from Andover, Connecticut, who has traveled across the country to raise awareness on this issue and has gathered thousands of signatures in support of making changes to these requirements.
“Forty-three years after the end of the Vietnam War, our government is still failing to properly care for service members who were exposed to the toxic chemical known as Agent Orange,” said Congressman Courtney. “The Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act is a long overdue reform to the way the Veterans Administration recognizes the claims of Agent Orange victims. This bill would not be possible without the tireless efforts of one of my constituents, Mr. Gerry Wright, who has single-handedly crisscrossed the country to raise the alarm about untreated Agent Orange cases. It’s a commonsense bill which will remove one of the most frustrating and onerous barriers that has denied veterans critical assistance for decades. It’s time to correct an injustice, it’s time to pass this bill.”
Under current law and regulations, veterans must demonstrate that the symptoms of certain diseases developed within a year of exposure in order to receive the care and compensation they deserve. Rep. Courtney’s bill eliminates these exclusive and unfair requirements to include all service members who were exposed to the pesticide, granting them access the benefits they’re entitled to.
“Ensuring veterans exposed to Agent Orange receive the care and benefits they have earned should be standard practice. However, this has not always been the case,” said Congressman Don Young. “It’s a shame that many veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in service to their country have to go through endless hoops to obtain treatment. My hope is that this legislation will remove some of those burdensome and unfair requirements and allow these veterans to receive what they have rightfully earned.”
“Having heard directly from many veterans and their families in the first district who have been impacted by Agent Orange, I am proud to join Congressman Courtney in introducing this important legislation,” Congressman Larson said. “This bill will deliver long awaited relief to those who have served and sacrificed for their country.”
“I want to thank Congressman Joe Courtney for reintroducing the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act in the 116th Congress,” said Gerry Wright, Andover, CT resident and Vietnam War Veteran. “In my opinion, as with other Veterans that I've spoken with across the USA, these end dates need to be removed and treatment along with disability must be restored as soon as possible.”
In a letter to Courtney dated November 7, 2018, Brett Reistad, National Commander of the American Legion, wrote:
“On behalf of the nearly 2 million members of The American Legion, I am pleased to express support for […] the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act, as currently written. Manifest periods required for presumptions of service-connected disabilities create avoidable legal struggles for veterans exposed to certain herbicide agents in Korea from 1968-1971, and Vietnam from 1961-1971. Unreasonable and punitive onset dates result in the loss of earned disability compensation, and in some cases, medical treatment for veterans. Removal of the manifestation period required for the presumptions of service connection for chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, as well as acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy ensures veterans who were exposed to these chemicals are provided with the benefits and healthcare they deserve.”
Senator Blumenthal intends to reintroduce a companion Senate bill in the near future.