The day President Donald Trump signed a funding bill including a provision ordering VA to announce its plans to add four conditions to the list of Agent Orange-linked diseases within 30 days, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the decision wasn’t likely to come until at least “late 2020.”
In a letter to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., dated Dec. 20 and obtained by Military Times, Wilkie said he would not make a decision until the results of two long-awaited studies are submitted to or published in scientific journals.
In March, VA officials told members of Congress that the decision would be announced within 90 days.
Then Wilkie said he was just awaiting the results of the studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — expected in 2019.
But the requirement that the results be analyzed, peer-reviewed and in the publication pipeline could add months to the process. VE-HEROES results are currently “being analyzed,” while data from the mortality study is “expected to be available for peer review and publication in late 2020,” Wilkie wrote in the letter.