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Schumer Amendment Would Aid More Veterans Sick From Agent Orange

On Long Island, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced bipartisan support for a plan to expand benefits for veterans who suffer from Agent Orange-related diseases.

Schumer added an amendment to an upcoming military spending bill that will expand disability and compensation benefits for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide used during the Vietnam War. He says Parkinson’s Disease, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism will be added to the list of eligible conditions.  

“They risked their lives for us in an awful war. Now, they got these diseases because of exposure to Agent Orange. Are we going to back them up? And the answer finally is ‘yes.’” 

John Rowan, with Vietnam Veterans of America, served in Vietnam as a linguist for the Air Force. He’s 100% disabled because of diseases he developed from his exposure to Agent Orange.

“This has been a long time coming with these last vestiges of Agent Orange illnesses being added to the laundry list of illnesses that we have succumbed to over the years.” 

Rowan says now, more sick veterans will be able to access the benefits they need.

“It'll allow veterans, if you have those diseases, to start getting a disability rating and pension for that, which then gets you other kinds of benefits. And unfortunately, if you get these cancers and stuff, you're going to be 100% disabled.”

Rowan says the expansion of qualifying diseases is long overdue. Schumer says the amendment has broad bipartisan support. He expects the Senate to vote on the bill this month.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.
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