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Senator Chuck Schumer calls for VA to recognize health conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure

Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI News
Senator Chuck Schumer (D) greets veterans and press at the Veteran Outreach Center in Rochester on Monday afternoon.

On Monday, Senator Chuck Schumer condemned the federal government’s lack of action to assist veterans with some health conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure. The senator says this affects around 20,000 Vietnam-era veterans in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.  He made the comments at the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester.

Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide used in the Vietnam War to destroy foliage used for “enemy cover.” The National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine linked bladder cancer, hypertension, Parkinson’s or hypothyroidism conditions as linked to Agent Orange,

The VA recognizes other Agent-Orange-related conditions but not these four. As such, affected veterans are not eligible for benefits.

“I’m sure when they came back they said, ‘Gee, praise God, I didn’t sustain any battlefield wounds.’ But they did, we just didn’t know about it," Schumer says. "We didn’t know that Agent Orange was a poison.”

Veteran Manuel Silva says he’s been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and multiple types of cancer. For years he’d been fighting the VA for assistance.

He says he hopes Schumer keeps battling for veterans like himself.

Credit Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI News
Senator Chuck Schumer stands to the left of veterans James Myers and Manuel Silva as they give their statements to the crowd.

"That he continues to push the current administration to concede to the mistakes that they have made,” Silva says.

Schumer says the federal government’s decision came down to budget.

“But now we have found some emails of OMB and VA back and forth and OMB was saying it was too expensive," he says. "See what they do is they say ‘Oh, the study was not conclusive.’ B-S.”

Schumer says he has included language in the last budget bill to require transparency from the Federal government on this issue.