Senator demands to know why thousands of veterans aren’t receiving the health benefits he believes they should.
WASHINGTON, DC—US Senator Gary Peters (MI) is pressing the Trump Administration to reverse its decision that delays and denys healthcare and benefits for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Funds that are already allocated for those affected.
In a letter to Secretary Robert Wilkie of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Acting Director Mick Mulvaney of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Peters stressed that a new law passed by Congress, and a federal court decision, granted VA the authority to provide benefits for additional Vietnam veterans. He also mentioned a Freedom of Information Act request that found OMB blocked the VA from adding more diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure, such as hypothyroidism, bladder cancer, hypertension, and Parkinsonism, to the list of presumptive illnesses eligible for coverage. The Administration’s stalling impacts more than 80,000 Vietnam veterans who are suffering from these health conditions.
“I am writing to express concern with the Trump Administration’s apparent refusal to take appropriate measures to immediately support veterans who are suffering from illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure,” wrote Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Your inaction places you squarely between tens of thousands of veterans and life-saving treatment and benefits… Stonewalling veterans like this is completely unfair. Vietnam veterans are aging… This matter demands urgency.”
In the letter, Peters also demanded that the White House either add the previously listed conditions to the VA’s list of Agent Orange-presumptive diseases or provide an explanation for why the Administration is declining to provide veterans suffering from these afflictions their earned benefits, despite scientific evidence suggesting they should.
Peters has led numerous efforts in Congress to support Michigan’s service members and veterans. Peters supported the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation that President Trump signed into law this summer, which allows VA to offer benefits to veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange. That followed a January federal court decision that ruled the VA cannot deny disability benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. Despite that ruling and the legislation signed into law, the VA is still not processing these veterans’ claims.
Earlier this year, Peters authored a bipartisan bill to improve the VA’s caregiver program by providing caregivers and veterans more opportunities to appeal any downgrade or termination of benefits and ensure all caregivers are recognized as part of the clinical team attending to veterans. Peters also helped introduce bipartisan legislation this past January to require service members to be assessed for exposure to open toxic burn pits as part of their routine health exams.
Because hundreds of thousands of people—veterans as well as their families—may be affected by the department’s inaction, Sen. Peters and others urge members of the public to help in this effort by contacting their Representatives and Senators.