Sen. Chuck Schumer announced a plan Tuesday to expand the list of covered diseases linked to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange for Vietnam War veterans, saying it had "broad bipartisan support," and could become law in a few weeks as part of a military spending bill.
"We're about to win this fight," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a news conference at the Veterans Memorial at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
Accompanied by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America, Schumer said, "I'm here to reveal a national plan to deliver health care and compensation" to veterans.
"The plan … will expand the list of diseases, will provide relief for tens of thousands of veterans on Long Island and many more in New York State and in the country," Schumer said.
The senator said the amendment is scheduled for a vote in two weeks as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Schumer said the amendment had "broad bipartisan support. It will pass." He added, "So we're here to say relief is about to come."
Schumer said there are about 80,000 Vietnam veterans on Long Island and in New York City. New York State has about 240,000 veterans of the war.
Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA automatically accepts that any Vietnam veteran who served in-country between January 1962 and May 1975 probably was exposed to the herbicide.
Agent Orange was not used "maliciously" in Vietnam, Schumer said, but as a way to remove jungle foliage and expose the enemy. But later, "we learned that things like diabetes and leukemia and other things were caused by Agent Orange," he said.