Schumer’s push to help Vietnam vets moves ahead

U.S. Sen. Schumer speaks at Memorial Park today. In the background are Mayor Wilfred Rosas, County Executive PJ Wendel and John Miga of American Legion Post 62.

On a blustery, bitter morning of Feb. 20, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer made a plea in Dunkirk’s Memorial Park to help Vietnam veterans who may have been touched by Agent Orange during their service to the United States. In making the announcement he called on two federal agencies to work to expand health-care benefits to the more than 240,000 New Yorkers who served in the Vietnam War.

With Vietnam-era veterans in attendance, as well as those from other wars, Schumer called on the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to stop playing games, end the years-long dispute, and add new conditions to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

“It’s an absolute disgrace to have our government say that you’re not getting the benefits you’re entitled to caused by your brave service overseas,” he said, noting 32,000 Western New Yorkers served in the war in the 1960s and ’70s.

On Friday, there appeared to be some traction for the cause. After successfully securing an amendment to the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which expanded the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, Schumer announced that the final version of the act will include his amendment, which authorizes $8 billion in new benefits for vets suffering from Agent Orange-linked illnesses. Those veterans, Schumer said, may be suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and parkinsonism will be able to access healthcare and benefits, numbers that have expanded because of the senator’s amendment associating additional diseases with exposure to Agent Orange.

“After years and years of suffering and fighting, I proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with our Western New York vets who were exposed to Agent Orange to get Congress to take a major step forward and grant our heroes access to the medical care they need and have earned,” Schumer said in a press release Friday. “It’s taken far too long, and we still need to see this change signed into law, but veterans across the country can celebrate today as a victory. We will work together to get this across the finish line in the very near future so those who put their lives on the line for our freedom can get the healthcare they deserve.”


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