Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden helps pass legislation to improve care for Vietnam veterans

June 29, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden helps pass legislation to improve care for Vietnam veterans

Cosponsors bill to address health impacts for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Continuing his efforts to support Oregon veterans, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) helped pass legislation to improve care for Vietnam veterans. This week, the House of Representatives passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) with Walden’s strong support.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would ensure that veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam are able to access benefits for diseases associated with exposure to herbicide agents such as Agent Orange.  Walden said this legislation marks an important step forward in the fight to get Blue Water Navy veterans the care they deserve.

“This gets some help for our Blue Water Navy veterans -- the Vietnam veterans who served offshore but were still exposed to Agent Orange,” said Walden. “Their fight to get coverage and care is now closer to fruition with passage of the Blue Water Navy bill, which I supported.”

Specifically, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend the presumption of service connection for disease associated with exposure to herbicide agents to Blue Water Navy veterans. This legislation would also require VA to conduct outreach to inform Blue Water Navy veterans of the ability to submit a new claim for disability benefits, and authorize the VA to provide retroactive benefits to certain veterans and survivors who had previously filed a claim for benefits based on exposure to herbicides. Walden was a cosponsor of this bill prior to its passage.

Walden is also a cosponsor of a bill to address certain health problems of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals.

“I’ve signed onto legislation to help our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan deal with future health issues they may incur because of the burn pits that took place in both of those countries,” said Walden. “We need to make sure that our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are being cared for properly as a result of any exposure to toxins they were exposed to by being around those burn pits.”

Over 140,000 servicemembers and veterans over the past three decades have reported exposure to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. However, since there is no mandatory reporting system, there are likely many more servicemembers affected. Exposure can produce serious and potentially life-threatening health effects, including neurological disorders, rare forms of cancer, lung diseases, and more -- triggering some to call the crisis the ‘Agent Orange’ of the post-9/11 generation.

The Burn Pits Accountability Act would evaluate the exposure of servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals by:

  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs).
  • Enrolling any servicemember who meets the above criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out.
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs, and PDHAs.

To learn more about this legislation, please click here. To learn more about Representative Walden’s legislative efforts to support Oregon veterans, please click here.

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