By ALISON GENDAR
New York’s junior senator is leading a bi-partisan push to make sure thousands of Naval vets exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War get the health benefits they are entitled to.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) teamed up with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R—N.C.) on legislation that would enable Naval veterans exposed to the toxin to get disability and health care benefits.
The Veterans Administration decided in 2002 it would only provide Agent Orange benefits to veterans who could prove they had orders for “boots on the ground,” a definition that excluded some 250,000 sailors who may have still received significant Agent Orange exposure.
“Because of technicality in the law, hundreds of thousands of American veterans are being denied the benefits they need and deserve,” Gillibrand said.
“Agent Orange is a very difficult chapter in our nation’s history. It is time that we correct the errors of the past," she said.
The U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage.
Blue Water Navy Vets – veterans who were on duty in the waters around Vietnam, but did not have “boots on the ground” – were often exposed to Agent Orange on a daily basis, Gillibrand noted.
In 2005, the VA’s former director of Environmental Agents Service publicly acknowledged that there was no scientific basis for the exclusion of Blue Water Vietnam veterans, but the VA has continued to refuse these veterans the benefits.