27 April 2015

Senate AGAIN Demands VA Action For C-123 Agent Orange Veterans

Following the April 9 conference at the Senate Russell Building to address C-123 Agent Orange veterans' medical and compensation benefits, senior members of the United States Senate repeated their earlier bipartisan demand that VA Secretary McDonald exercise his existing authority and order appropriate action now.

Initially, VA expected to propose legislation using language already agreed-upon by Senate staffers. Just before the conference VA pulled the legislation which had been objected to by the C-123 Veterans Association. The vets faulted VA for having inserted language barring retroactive claims, meaning those whose illnesses manifested over the years and who submitted claims not yet approved would be denied coverage and all claims honored only from March 17 2015 forward.

Actually, the entire idea of legislation was objected to, as everyone except VA realized the Secretary had all the authority needed to act immediately. Legislation would delay yet further any relief for veterans whose illnesses had been evident for years, and has the risk of not being enacted at all.

On April 23, Senators Burr, Merkley, Blumenthal, Brown, Bennet, Warren and Wyden forwarded a joint letter to Secretary McDonald. Outlining in detail the legal basis for Secretarial action versus legislation, the letter requested firm action by the VA within fourteen days. Their letter closely paralleled the scholarly, in-depth analysis authored by Yale University School of Law, the C-123 Veterans' legal advocate.

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