US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Steve Daines on March 9 introduced the Senate to a bill aiming to ensure disability and health care benefits for thousands of Vietnam war veterans exposed to toxic Agent Orange, which the US troops poured into Vietnam’s territory during the wartime.

A similar bill was also submitted to the Lower House last month.

Talking with press agencies after bringing in the draft “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015” to the Senate, Senator Gillibrand from the Democratic Party said “Hundreds of thousands of our veterans are being denied benefits they need and deserve because of a technicality in the law”.

According to the Senator, during the Vietnam War, the US military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating effects for millions serving in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Senator Daines from the Republican Party stated that “this legislation will ensure that victims of Agent Orange-related disease receive the care and compensation they have long deserved.”

In 1991, the US Congress passed a law requiring Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002 the VA determined that it would only cover veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War.

New bills were submitted to the bicameral Congress in the context that VA is considering determining whether the veterans served in the military cargo aircraft, which had already been used for spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam territory, have been entitled to social welfare.

Around 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to the toxic Agent Orange sprayed over Vietnam’s southern region by the US troops during the war. Many of the victims have died, while millions of their descendants are living with deformities and diseases due to the chemical’s effects.-VNA