In Letter to the VA Secretary today, Senators Call on VA to Extend the Timeframe of the Presumption to Include Veterans Affected During the Initial Herbicide Spraying

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., led a bipartisan group of five senators in urging 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 letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the senators called on VA to extend the timeframe of the presumption to include veterans affected during the initial herbicide spraying. The letter was also signed by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“We urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend the presumption of Agent Orange Exposure to all the veterans who were affected by herbicide spraying in the Korean DMZ, including those who are currently deemed ineligible because they were in or near the DMZ only during the test phase of defoliation,” the senators wrote. “This presumption will allow easier access to critical health care and other benefits for veterans who urgently need it.”

Blumenthal recently called on VA to extend the timeframe of the presumption at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. During his 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.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter below.

Dear Secretary McDonald,

Many veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during the Vietnam War are suffering from significant health conditions associated with exposure to toxic herbicides. Some of these veterans were not present during the full-scale defoliation operation commonly associated with herbicide exposure, but were nonetheless affected by the herbicide testing that preceded it. They are c