WASHINGTON – On Friday, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced two bipartisan bills to ensure veterans who were exposed to chemical herbicides while serving their country receive the benefits they have earned. The Keeping Our Promises Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and 18 colleagues, and a second bill extending benefits to Vietnam War-era veterans stationed in Thailand is co-sponsored by 37 House colleagues and is a companion bill to Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) S. 657.
Congressman Westerman described these two bills and why this is important for our veterans:
“Our United States veterans were promised upon their retirement from service that they would be provided benefits and care for life, but they have often been denied benefits despite ample evidence of a connection between their time in service and their health status,” said Congressman Westerman. “It is our responsibility to make good on our word. Those who served during the Vietnam War in Vietnam and Thailand deserve care for exposure to Agent Orange, which they endured in service to our nation. These bills set a precedent for all veterans that their country has their backs and will keep its promises. I was grateful to champion this effort in the 116th Congress and see three of the presumptive service-connected diseases signed into law as part of the 2021 NDAA, but our work is not done.” said Westerman.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our veterans have the benefits and health care they have earned. Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and Thailand have not been able to get the care they need to help recover from this toxic exposure,” said Congressman Thompson. “I’m proud to coauthor these bipartisan bills to ensure these veterans aren’t left behind and allow them to access care and benefits needed to treat these service-connected illnesses. I urge Congress to take up these bills and fulfill our duty to our nation’s veterans.”
“Veterans who honorably served during the Vietnam War-era in Thailand to this day are paying a high price as a result of having been carelessly hindered by the limitations on the presumption of toxic exposure to Agent Orange, but they aren’t forgotten. I’m grateful for Congressman Westerman’s leadership in the House of Representatives to ensure these veterans get the benefits they’ve earned,” said Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The Keeping our Promises Act follows the science by adding six diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) list of medical conditions eligible for benefits due to exposure to Agent Orange. Additionally, the bill allows 120 days for the Secretary of the VA to determine adding future diseases following a published National Academy of Medicine report. The bill will also require the VA to report in the Federal Register and to Congressional Committees its reasons for adding or denying the addition of diseases to the Agent Orange list of presumptive and explicitly prohibits cost as a factor for making these determinizations.
The second bill will ensure all veterans who served on a base in Thailand during the Vietnam War, regardless of rank or position, and were presumed exposed to herbicides will be provided with the benefits and care they have earned. It also extends the date of recognized service in Thailand through June 30, 1976.