WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) today introduced S. 2038, the Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation to expand presumption for veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The bill would change the presumptive dates to cover the period of Sept. 1, 1967-Aug. 31, 1971 in order to provide additional access to critical healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. The Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act of 2017 was cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-NY) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).
“Many veterans who served in the Korean DMZ during the Vietnam War are suffering from significant health conditions associated with exposure to toxic herbicides, and some of these veterans are still excluded from qualifying for the healthcare benefits they need,” said Sen. Moran. “The Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act would help more Korean DMZ veterans have access to critical healthcare benefits they have been previously denied. I am grateful to again work with Sen. Tester on this vital issue and encourage my colleagues to support this legislation so we can finally resolve this issue and Korean DMZ veterans can begin receiving the benefits they deserve.”
“When service members deploy to harm’s way and are exposed to toxic chemicals, our country has a responsibility to meet their health care needs,” said Sen. Tester. “This bipartisan bill recognizes the sacrifice of Korean DMZ veterans and ensures they have access to the services they have earned.”
“This bill honors our country’s commitment to providing veterans with the quality care they need and deserve for their service,” said Sen. Wyden. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to keep fighting for Korean DMZ veterans suffering decades later from their exposure to damaging chemicals.”
“I’m grateful that Senator Moran is introducing The Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act in the Senate,” said Rep. MacArthur. “As the son of a Korean War veteran and Representative of more than 50,000 veterans, I originally introduced this bill in the House because I believe we have a moral obligation to provide quality care for our veterans. This bill will ensure hundreds of veterans who served at the Korean DMZ that are suffering from Agent Orange and other herbicide-related conditions finally receive the care they deserve.”
“The VFW is proud to stand with Senator Moran in support of veterans who served on the Korean DMZ prior to April of 1968 and now suffer from adverse health conditioned associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Those veterans, from several Army units, supported our Korean allies and their service has caused health problems which cannot be ignored,” said VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes. “This legislation would properly recognize the earlier time period that Agent Orange was used and, in turn, clear the hurdles that veterans have faced when securing their earned benefits from VA.”
Declassified Department of Defense (DoD) documents indicate that the testing period occurred before the current presumptive dates. Currently, presumption for Korean DMZ veterans only covers the time period of April 1, 1968-Aug. 31, 1971. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) estimates the approximate number of Korean DMZ veterans the Fairness for Korean DMZ Veterans Act of 2017 could benefit is between 1,000-1,500.
Items to Note:
- In March 2016, several Senators wrote to then-Secretary McDonald urging him to use his authority to extend the presumption of Agent Orange Exposure for the entirety of the testing period, as well as the spraying period in light of this new evidence and successful appeals.
- In March 2017, Sens. Moran and Tester introduced legislation, S. 726, to allow veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances in classified incidents to access their military records as they apply for disability benefits and VA health care. In September, this legislation was included in passage of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
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