CONGRESSMAN BISHOP FOCUSES ON HEALING HUMAN COST OF WAR
MACON, GA – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), co-chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, introduced H.R. 5248, the Agent Orange Reconciliation Act of 2016, in an effort to help heal the post-conflict, human cost of war by caring for children living with Spina Bifida due to Vietnam veteran parent’s exposure to Agent Orange. Spina Bifida requires costly surgeries and extensive medical care because of potential paralysis resulting from damage to the spinal cord. The Agent Orange Reconciliation Act of 2016 would fill gaps in the Agent Orange Benefits Act by providing a one-time retroactive monetary payment to the families with children enduring with Spina Bifida to compensate for treatment of related symptoms from birth until the date benefits under the original Act were first received.
“Our nation holds a commitment to our veterans and their families,” said Congressman Bishop. “Ensuring restitution for Vietnam veterans’ children suffering with Spina Bifida not only sustains our ongoing pledge but also recognizes the harmful and continued effects of exposure to Agent Orange.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs presumes a link between Vietnam-era veterans exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange and the incidences of Spina Bifida in their biological children. The Agent Orange Benefits Act (Public Law 104-204), which became law in 1996, established a benefits package for the children of Vietnam veterans as a result of exposure of one or both biological parents to herbicide during active duty in the Vietnam War. Benefits include lifetime health care services for Spina Bifida and any disability associated with Spina Bifida, a monthly monetary allowance, and VA vocational training and rehabilitation service. The Act authorized the VA to provide such benefits effective October 1, 1997, but not earlier than the date of the VA’s receipt of an individual’s claim for benefits. However, the Agent Orange Benefits Act did not tackle the already incurred medical costs directly correlated to Spina Bifida.
According to the VA, approximately 1,200 affected children of Vietnam-era veterans have received compensation since the date benefits under the original Act were first received. While these children became eligible for benefits in 1997, veterans and their families have been left with the cost of years of medical care necessary to treat a child’s birth conditions directly attributable to the veteran’s wartime service. Due to medical advances, most children born with Spina Bifida live well into their adulthood.
For more information regarding the Agent Orange Reconciliation Act of 2016, please click here.