U.S. Army/Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection

Senate stands up on Agent Orange

A day in which The American Legion called upon its membership to tell Congress to strike down an amendment to the MILCON/VA appropriations bill closed with the passage of the bill through the Senate without the controversial amendment. Senate Amendment 564 to H.R. 2055 was introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and would have radically changed the fundamental scientific threshold of evidence, making it nearly impossible for future disorders to be added to the presumptive disability list associated with Agent Orange, and possibly negatively affected other veterans suffering from exposures to Gulf War hazards and other exposures. By a vote of 69-30, with one senator not voting, Congress struck down the amendment and passed the clean bill subsequently with only two opposing votes.

The American Legion was extremely active yesterday in opposition to this amendment, writing critical analysis on the blog The Burn Pit, issuing a press release from National Commander Jimmie L. Foster and calling for action through the Legislative Action Center. The American Legion called and membership raised their voice to Congress to stop the change before it could cause great damage to the Agent Orange veterans.

Foster praised the defeat of the cost cutting measure, noting, "I'm pleased that common sense, compassion and fairness prevailed. We can't balance the budget on the backs of those who have already contributed so much."

The amendment stood to change the standard of scientific evidence needed to associate disorders with Agent Orange from a "positive association" which has been the standard since the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to the far more onerous "causal relationship." In medical research, establishing a causal relationship requires far more exhaustive study, yet most treatment techniques and health advice is based on positive associations, as the more intricate causal relationships can often be almost impossible to pin down.

Legionnaires are urged to contact their Senators and tell them not to balance the budget on the backs of America's veterans. Tell them to say no to Coburn's "Back in Black" and send it back.