Senate bill aims to help veterans exposed to Agent Orange

Maine Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) said Thursday that they’d introduce a bill aimed at helping Maine veterans who have been exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange with their VA claims.

“Through their service, our veterans have demonstrated an unyielding commitment to our nation, and in return, our country has a duty to protect their health and well-being,” King said. “I am hopeful that this piece of legislation will bring us a step closer to providing more robust answers for Maine's veterans who served at Gagetown.”

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During military training at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown some service members were exposed to Agent Orange. Many have suffered health problems as a result and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a massive claims backlog.

The bill from the two Maine senators would direct the VA to establish a registry of U.S. veterans with health problems who have served or trained at CFB Gagetown since the 1960s. The senators said a registry would provide veterans with a way to make their claims known to the VA and to identify commonalities among their health problems.

Collins pointed out that Canada has established a similar program to help their veterans who were also exposed to the chemical.

“Protecting the health of those who have served our nation is a solemn responsibility, and I have raised this issue directly with Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki,” Collins said. “Just as the Government of Canada found a way to offer compensation to service members exposed to toxic herbicides at Gagetown, the VA should likewise be able to find a way to recognize the similar concerns voiced by Maine veterans.”

Their bill would also require the VA to commission an independent study tasked with investigating the linkage between service at Gagetown and the development of health problems and disease associated with exposure to Agent Orange.