Bill seeks to simplify Agent Orange-related claims

Amid the growing movement to seek justice for veterans who are afflicted with diseases presumably linked to Agent Orange, Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas and Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis on Thursday introduced a bill aimed to better facilitate the veterans' benefit claims.

H.R. 1713 would grant “presumptive herbicide exposure status” to U.S. service members who served on Guam and American Samoa between 1962 and 1980.

“The historical data is conclusive that extremely harmful levels of dioxin were present and service members were undoubtedly exposed,” San Nicolas said in filing the legislation, dubbed “The Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Relief Act,” in honor of a Navy veteran stationed on Guam who died of cancer due to herbicide exposure.

“The environment was also impacted, with saturation levels prolonging exposures on a regular basis. The harm is undeniable, and the need for justice equally so,” San Nicolas said.

Kilpatrick died in May last year, barely weeks after winning his long battle against the Department of Veterans Affairs’ denial of his Agent Orange claims. In April 2018, the department eventually reversed its previous order and awarded his benefits, retroactive to 2010.

In his death bed, “Make it count” were his last words that have become the slogan for the Agent Orange justice movement.