In Wake of New Research, Blumenthal Calls on VA to Consider Expanding List of Medical Conditions that Qualify Veterans for Presumption of Agent Orange Exposure

Presumption Allows Veterans Easier Access to Critical Health Care Benefits, But There Has Been Insufficient Evidence Linking Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism to Toxicant Exposure. New Institute of Medicine Study Provides Evidence That More Closely Links Exposure to Agent Orange with These Two Conditions.

(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 strongly consider adding bladder cancer and hypothyroidism to the list of medical conditions that qualify veterans for a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. This presumption allows veterans easier access to critical health care benefits, but previously there was insufficient evidence linking these two conditions to toxicant exposure. A new study by the Institute of Medicine provides evidence that more closely links exposure to Agent Orange with bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. In addition, the Institute of Medicine’s study recommends further toxicologic research in a number of areas to include the risks to the offspring of servicemembers exposed to Agent Orange.

“If a servicemember’s exposure to toxicants during their service increases their risk of bladder cancer or hypothyroidism, then we must ensure these brave men and women have easy access to the vital health care they deserve,” Blumenthal said. “I urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to thoroughly consider the findings and recommendations in today’s Institute of Medicine Report on veterans’ health risks and toxic herbicides used during the Vietnam War. The stronger link found between Agent Orange exposure and veterans suffering from bladder cancer and hypothyroidism merits a review of whether these conditions should be added to the list of medical conditions that qualify for the presumption of service connection.  I also urge Secretary McDonald to take up the report’s recommendation to conduct new research on the health risks that veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, whether in Vietnam or on the modern battlefield, pass down to their loved ones.”

Blumenthal is the original co-sponsor of the S. 901, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015, which would support research into health conditions faced by descendants of veterans who were exposed to hazardous substances during their service to our nation – such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, neurotoxins during the first Gulf War, burn pits and chemical weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other chemicals or toxins.  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.

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