Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje (D-Yona) on Wednesday urged the Guam Legislature to support three resolutions she introduced addressing the environmental and health impacts of Agent Orange, radiation exposure, and nuclear testing clean-up on veterans and the people of Guam.
“There is no doubt that the people of Guam have been exposed to these various harmful chemicals and toxins like Agent Orange and iodizing radiation as a result of spraying or being in close proximity to nuclear testing,” Terlaje said. “It has been many years now that we have been seeking justice and assistance for those who have suffered from some of the diseases related to these past events. It is time that the United States Congress takes action on the legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives to right these wrongs.”
The three resolutions were moved to the third reading file and will be voted on by the Legislature on Thursday.
Resolution 25-34, relative to expressing support for H.R. 809, the Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in Eastern Regions (FOSTER) Act, introduced by the Honorable Congressman Dennis Ross, R-Florida, provides presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to Vietnam War-era veterans who served in Guam, and show symptoms of medical conditions currently associated with exposure to Agent Orange in order to receive U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs benefits; and to seeking justice for veterans and civilians exposed to Agent Orange on Guam.
“We know of cases where the Department of Veteran Affairs has acknowledged diseases resulting from the exposure to Agent Orange on Guam and service members have said that they were forced to spray Agent Orange in military facilities on Guam,” Terlaje said.
Rep. Dennis Ross introduced HR 809 on behalf of the veterans who served in Guam.
Resolution 39-34 petitions the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would compensate those suffering from cancer and health issues due to radiation exposure from nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. Senate Bill 197 and H.R. 2049 would amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA) to expand the list of eligible downwind areas to include Guam for the nuclear weapons testing conducted by the U.S. government in the Marshall Islands from 1945 through 1962. The passage of these congressional bills would allow those who resided in Guam between 1945 and 1962 and who suffered from cancer or other listed radiation-related illness, to apply for compensation up to $150,000 from the remaining funds in the RECA Trust Fund.
“Guam has been united in this effort for many, many the years through the leadership of the Pacific Association of Radiation Survivors (PARS), Mr. Robert N. Celestial, the late Dr. Chris Perez, former Speakers Ben Pangelinan, Mark Forbes, Judith Won Pat and many others. Justice is long overdue,” stated Vice Speaker Terlaje.
Resolution 40-34 advocates for the inclusion of veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll as radiation-exposed Veterans to be properly compensated. Passage of H.R. 632 and S. 283, both titled the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, would extend medical care and pay compensation benefits to the cleanup veterans of Enewetak Atoll and their dependents. The congressional bills mandate that these radiation-exposed cleanup veterans would be entitled to the presumption that a veteran’s disease was caused by radiation if the veteran was involved in the cleanup and developed one of the presumptive diseases.
“There are veterans on Guam still alive who have asked for our assistance, and some who passed already, who were part of over 4,000 soldiers who participated in the cleanup of U.S. nuclear test sites without being told of the danger they were in from exposure to radiation. This resolution and the bills in Congress seek justice in the form of medical care and compensation for those veterans and their dependents who suffer from cancer and other medical conditions,” Terlaje said.
“It is important that our voices are heard in Congress through these Resolutions and that the veterans who served and the residents in Guam who have endured some of these environmental and health impacts are properly supported and recognized by the U.S. government.”