Tens of thousands of veterans sick from Agent Orange exposure still are waiting on the Department of Veterans Affairs to decide whether it will cover their illnesses.
The veteran service organizations and members of Congress who represent them have had enough.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Rep. Josh Harder, another California Democrat, sent a letter to the White House recently demanding the administration step aside and allow VA to extend disability benefits for four Agent Orange-linked diseases.
Democrats in the Senate and VSOs also previously blasted the White House, accusing the administration of "turning your backs on Vietnam vets who are suffering."
An Institute of Medicine report in 2016 found evidence that bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease have likely links to the toxic herbicide. In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences found evidence linking hypertension, or high blood pressure, to the toxic herbicide as well.
Expanding the list of health conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure could provide disability pay and health benefits to more than 83,000 veterans.
Two years ago, then-VA Secretary David Shulkin decided to add more diseases to VA's list of health concerns that qualify a veteran for Agent Orange disability benefits, but White House officials stood in Shulkin's way, according to documents obtained by a veteran through the Freedom of Information Act and provided to Connecting Vets.
Takano's letter was addressed to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, one of the officials implicated in the documents as allegedly blocking VA's efforts to expand benefits.
"We write today to demand that you stop your efforts to block the inclusion of four diseases in the (VA) presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure," the letter reads. "Media reports and official documents show that you personally intervened to stop tens of thousands of veterans affected by these diseases from getting the health care they deserve."