Lawmakers push to expand coverage to more veterans exposed to Agent Orange

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Vietnam War veterans search for names on the Vietnam War Memorial as thousands of bikers and military veterans take part in the 31st annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom motorcycle parade in Washington DC, on May 27, 2018. – Wearing bandanas, cowboy hats or gleaming helmets, tens of thousands of bikers descended on Washington Sunday to parade in honor of US soldiers missing in action in foreign wars, a now 30-year-old tradition known as “Rolling Thunder.” (ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Congressman Josh Harder says many Vietnam War vets suffering today because of their exposure to Agent Orange don’t get the medical benefits they deserve.

“Vietnam Veterans have been paying tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket for diseases they incurred in service to their country,” Representative Josh Harder, D-California, said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has designated 14 specific illnesses linked to Agent Orange for which veterans can receive federal health benefits but Harder says too many vets have health issues also linked to Agent Orange, that aren’t on the VA’s list.

“Hypertension, bladder cancer, parkinson’s disease,” Harder said.

In 2017, Former VA Secretary David Shulkin tried to expand the list of medical issues that qualify for Agent Orange benefits.

The request was turned down by the White House. Now Harder, along with Congressman Mark Takano are making another push.

The two sent a letter to the White House urging them to expand the coverage to more veterans.

“They need to make sure they’re getting the benefits they deserve,” Harder said.

Harder plans to introduce a resolution calling for just that.

“You can file a claim for anything,” Natalie Khawam said.

Attorney Natalie Khawam says Vietnam vets can apply for benefits even if their illness aren’t on the VA’s list but the odds are against them.

“Those claims can be thrown out quickly, easily. Then you’re back in line again processing a claim months later,” Khawam said.

The VA sent a statement saying it “currently awaits the results of two studies that will guide decisions on this issue.”

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