April 16, 2021

Chairman Takano Praises Introduction of 3 New Bills that Address Toxic Exposure

Bills from Reps. Cartwright, Hayes, & Trone align with Committee efforts to address toxic exposure as a cost of war

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Jenni Geurink | 202-819-4684


WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) applauded the introduction of three new bills that align with the Committee’s efforts to comprehensively grant benefits and presumptions for all veterans exposed to toxic substances—regardless of where or when they served. This week, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) introduced the bipartisan Veterans Agent Orange Exposure Equity Act with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), which would provide long-due relief to Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange by expanding the presumption of exposure for those who were deployed to certain locations in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Additionally, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) introduced the bicameral Palomares Veterans Act to remove barriers to benefits and compensation for the veterans who responded to the 1966 nuclear accident in Palomares, Spain. Yesterday, Rep. David Trone (D-Mary.) introduced the Fairly Assessing Service-related Exposure Residual (FASTER) Presumptions Act to revamp VA’s presumptive decision-making process, so veterans exposed to toxic substances can get critical benefits faster. All three of these bills build on the Committee’s work to recognize toxic exposure as a cost of war and Chairman Takano’s commitment to prioritize toxic exposure legislation this Congress.


“Passing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last Congress was a huge accomplishment, but we can’t let another 40 years go by before we grant the same relief to other veterans who were exposed to toxic substances,” said Chairman Takano. “Rep. Cartwright’s Veterans Agent Orange Exposure Equity Act helps right that wrong and expands the presumption of exposure for veterans deployed in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Additionally, Rep. Hayes’ Palomares Veterans Act ensures that the veterans who responded to the nuclear accident in Palomares won’t get left behind either. Overall, it’s clear that VA’s presumptive decision-making process is broken and leaves too many veterans behind. I’m glad that Rep. Trone introduced the FASTER Presumptions Act to reform VA’s process and ensure that veterans exposed to toxic substances can get the benefits they’ve earned much faster. As the Committee works to comprehensively address toxic exposure, I am proud to support these bills and ensure that VA cares for all who have borne the battle.” 


“In the United States, we take care of our fellow Americans who have been harmed in the course of their military service. It should be no different in the case of the Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Many of those who have been exposed are living with cancers, heart disease or Parkinson’s disease. They deserve relief for the pain and hardship this has caused for them and their families.”


“Failing to recognize the sacrifice of Palomares veterans is a breach of our responsibility to service members and veterans. This critical, commonsense legislation works to address this issue. I remain committed to fighting for veterans suffering from all forms of toxic exposure, preventing generations of future veterans from the same fate, and ensuring all veterans have accessible and affordable health care,” said Rep. Hayes.


“These veterans have put their lives on the line in service to our country. The least we can do is provide these heroes with the benefits they’ve earned in a timely manner,” said Rep. Trone. “By modernizing VA’s benefits claims system, we will ensure that veterans will receive their benefits while being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”


Background: Earlier this year, Chairman Takano announced that he will prioritize toxic exposure during the 117th Congress and committed to moving comprehensive legislation forward. As part of this effort, the Committee has worked to educate about the effects of toxic exposure and has spoken to several veterans living with the effects of toxic exposure like MSgt. Brian Graves & Lt. Col. (Ret.) Nate Brauner. Last week, Chairman Takano applauded two new bills from Rep. Slotkin and Dr. Ruiz that formally recognize that veterans who served near open-air burn pits were exposed to airborne hazards and streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits for these exposures. Additionally, earlier this month Rep. Luria introduced the COVENANT Act to ensure that veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, East Africa, and the Philippines can access VA benefits. All of these efforts build off the monumental passage of Chairman Takano’s Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last Congress that finally granted benefits to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service off the coast of Vietnam.