Washington D.C.. --- U.S. Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-FL-15), Senior Deputy Majority Whip, and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, U.S. Delegate for Guam, made the following statements in response to the Guam Legislature unanimously passing Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje’s resolution (No. 25-34 (COR)) expressing support for Ross’ H.R. 809, the Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in Eastern Regions (FOSTER) Act, which 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 (VA) benefits:
“It’s a shame the Department of Defense (DOD) denies Agent Orange was ever used outside of Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam War, despite the influx of veterans coming forth with claims of exposure outside of these areas, including Guam,” said Ross. “As a result, these veterans, who put our lives before their own, are left suffering without any prospects of help or hope. We are making progress, however, and I am thrilled Vice Speaker Terlaje’s resolution passed the Guam Legislature today. This victory furthers our momentum to provide many of our courageous Vietnam War veterans suffering from Agent Orange-related diseases the benefits and care they deserve. I am incredibly thankful to Vice Speaker Terlaje, Rep. Bordallo, the great people of Guam and our veterans for their support of the FOSTER Act. We will not stop fighting until justice is served.”
“I continue to be dissatisfied by the DOD’s responses to inquiries and justification for claims that Agent Orange, or other dioxin-based herbicides, were not used, stored, or transferred on Guam during the Vietnam War,” said Bordallo.
“Many of my constituents and other veterans who served on Guam have come forward stating that they either sprayed or witnessed the presence of Agent Orange on Andersen Air Force Base. It is clear that more needs to be done to address this issue, and I thank Congressman Ross for his support in requesting for the GAO to review this matter. I also thank Congressman Ross for introducing legislation that would include Guam in the presumption of Agent Orange exposure for service connected disability, and I appreciate that he has included me as a cosponsor. Further, I appreciated that Guam’s Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje has introduced a resolution in the Guam Legislature supporting our legislative efforts. Our community on Guam supports this bill, and I look forward to working with Congressman Ross to advance it in Congress.”
The FOSTER Act:
~ This legislation would grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa during the Vietnam War.
~ This would enable eligible veterans to receive expedited consideration for VA benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. Government has linked to Agent Orange.
~ This legislation is named after MSgt. Leroy Foster of Lakeland, who claims he personally sprayed Agent Orange in Guam while serving at Andersen Air Force Base during the Vietnam War. MSgt. Foster claims he has more than 30 diseases and multiple cancers due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Guam, but does not qualify for VA benefits for his ailments under current law.
Agent Orange in the Vietnam War:
~ Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed Agent Orange and other herbicides on trees and vegetation that provided enemy cover during the Vietnam War.
~ More than 19 million gallons of various “rainbow” herbicide combinations were sprayed, but Agent Orange was the combination the U.S. military used most often.
~ The Agent Orange Act of 1991 (AOA) empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. This "presumptive policy" simplifies the process for receiving compensation for these diseases since VA foregoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began during or was worsened by military service.
~ Only veterans who actually stepped foot on Vietnamese soil are extended the presumption of coverage.
~ The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) currently states Agent Orange was not used outside of Vietnam and Thailand.
~ If veterans’ diseases and/or exposure locations fall outside of the current VA lists of confirmed diseases and exposure locations, the veterans must show an actual connection between the disease and herbicide exposure during military service. There is no presumption in such cases, and many claims are denied.
~ DOD acknowledged exposure by location (presumptive status confirmed for VA benefits):
On land or inland waterways of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships with operations in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
Along demilitarized zones in Korea between Apr. 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971.
~ Case-by-case exposure (presumptive status unconfirmed for VA benefits):
Herbicide residue in C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War.
Blue Water Veterans (open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War).
Thailand Military Bases between Feb. 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
Tests and storage at military bases in the United States and locations in other countries.
~ Diseases include, but are not limited to, heart disease, multiple cancers, diabetes, Hodgkin’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and birth defects.