Bill HR2596 Agent Orange Exposure

11 million gallons of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam, affecting three million Vietnam veterans and their families with life-threatening diseases and cancers. To that end, Congressional member Kato has re-introduced a bill entitled the Lawrence J. Hackett Jr. Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Fairness Act. Named in honor of Sergeant Lawrence Hackett, who lost his battle with Agent Orange related cancer in 2006. This act, which should have been passed the first time, will create a task force to explore ways to financially and medically provide for veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange.

“Our nation’s veterans have struggled with the side effects of Agent Orange for far too long,” said Rep. Katko. “Veterans have risked their lives in dangerous conflicts in order to defend our country. Larry Hackett, among countless other veterans, lost their lives due to complications resulting from Agent Orange. Veterans should not be subjected to the financial burdens created by illnesses this chemical causes.”

“This bill establishes a task force to properly assess the impact of Agent Orange on our nation’s veterans, as well as hold the VA accountable for the lethal impacts of this substance,” Katko continued. “This legislation honors Sergeant Hackett’s legacy, and will help improve the lives of the veterans and their families who have been afflicted.”

The task force established by Katko’s legislation would require the VA to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations about care and compensation based on exposure for veterans and their families.  It forms a national outreach campaign to educate veterans on the medical risks associated with Agent Orange exposure.

The bill is HR2596 and it is currently with the Department of Veteran Affairs Task Force on Agent Orange Exposure.  This bill is so important that excerpts from the bill are in the next column.

“These proud men and women fought for us – now it is time for us to fight for them. Whether or not you are affected personally by agent orange please reach out and have your voice heard. Be sure to mention you support this bill.”

Here are the excerpts:

Make recommendations to establish a program to be known as the “Agent Orange Illness Compensation Program” to provide an exposed veteran, or eligible survivor of that veteran if the veteran is deceased, a lump sum payment for the injury, illness, or death of that veteran.

Make recommendations for compensation and health care for individuals with Spina Bifida, birth defects, or other illnesses who are the children or descendants of members of the Armed Forces who served in the Republic of Vietnam or in or near the demilitarization zone in Korea during certain time periods determined by the task force.

Make recommendations for the establishment of a unified policy to deal with the consequences of exposure to hazardous materials in the military.

The task force shall terminate not later than two years after the date on which the task force is established.

Not later than one year after the date of the establishment of the task force, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a report on the findings of the task force this section.

Not later than 120 days after the termination of the task force, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report containing the assessment of the Secretary regarding the implementation of the findings of the task force.

Please contact your Congressional Representative to ensure this bill gets passed and that there are measures to ensure that compensation is just and not just a token amount.  For example, A jury in Oakland, California, has awarded $2 billion in punitive damages after concluding that sustained exposure to Monsanto Co.’s popular Roundup weed killer led to their cancer. The average death benefit for those who perished in 9/11 was above $2 million, while the largest death payment to date has been $7.1 million.  What amount will be set for these Vietnam veterans and their families?

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