(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, issued the following statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ruling to expand benefit eligibility for Air Force Veterans and Reservists who were exposed to Agent Orange through contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft:
“This significant step means real relief for veterans who need and deserve it, including many in Connecticut who have waited years. I am pleased that Secretary McDonald took this critical and long overdue step to ensure that these servicemembers who were exposed to Agent Orange - whether flying those missions or later serving on the same planes - have access to the benefits and care they earned and deserve. This ruling will allow more veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange to finally be eligible for disability benefits – action that I urged the VA and Secretary McDonald to do when we met earlier this summer.
“I hope VA will continue to ensure all those affected by exposure to Agent Orange and other hazardous substances during service to our nation are able to get the proper care and invest in researching the full effects of this and other toxins to identify potential impacts on the children and families of these veterans, as I have proposed in the Toxic Research Exposure Act. We must ensure all those who are impacted - both directly and indirectly - by hazardous substances such as Agent Orange receive proper and adequate care.”
Earlier this year, Senator Blumenthal joined with his colleagues to urge VA and Secretary McDonald to provide benefits and compensation to all veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In April, Blumenthal introduced the Toxic Research Exposure Act of 2015 calling for increased research into health conditions faced by descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service.