(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange to provide more veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) access to critical health care benefits. Currently, only veterans who served in the Korean DMZ during specific dates are granted a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange, which allows easier access to health care and benefits for conditions caused by the toxins. In a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Blumenthal stood with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in calling on VA to extend the timeframe of the presumption to include veterans affected during the initial herbicide spraying.
During this testimony, Blumenthal referenced the case of Army veteran Eugene Clarke from Redding, Connecticut who has health conditions that could have resulted from Agent Orange exposure while serving in the Korean DMZ. You can read about Clarke’s story here.
“Thank you for focusing in particular on veterans who served in the Korean DMZ that have illnesses linked to Agent Orange,” Blumenthal said. “Eugene Clarke of Redding, Connecticut has been instrumental in bringing a light to shine on these problems, and I want to thank Carlos Fuentes of the VFW for championing this cause. I can pledge to you that we are going to fight as long and hard as possible to make sure that veterans who served in the Korean DMZ are covered in compensation health care if they suffer from Agent Orange-linked illnesses. We are going to make sure they are treated fairly.”
In January, Blumenthal led a bipartisan letter with 14 Senators to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald requesting the VA quickly change their policy to ensure all Vietnam veterans can easily access and receive the necessary health care for conditions resulting from chemical exposure.
You can view Blumenthal’s remarks from the hearing here.