House passes Congresswoman Newman’s amendment on study of Panama Canal Veterans impacted by Agent Orange
Amendment builds on Rep. Newman’s Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act, which would grant federal benefits to Panama Canal Zone veterans who were exposed to deadly tactical herbicide. Click here to watch Congresswoman Newman’s floor speech on the amendment
As part of the Honoring our PACT Act, the House of Representatives on Thursday March 3, 2022 passed Congresswoman Marie Newman’s (IL-03) amendment to require the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a study on veterans who served in or near the Panama Canal Zone and may have been exposed to deadly tactical herbicide, also known as Agent Purple or Agent Orange.
The amendment builds on Congresswoman Newman’s Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act, which would grant veterans who served in or near the Panama Canal Zone with presumptive herbicide exposure status, meaning they could receive federal benefits and disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).
“Hundreds of veterans who honorably served our nation in Panama have come home with major health issues after being exposed to Agent Orange and Agent Purple. To this day, not any of these men and women have received benefits or disability compensation from the federal government as a result of their exposure to these deadly tactical herbicides,” said Congresswoman Newman.
“With the passage of this amendment, we are one stop closer to changing that. By requiring the Department of Defense to study this very issue, we can better learn who was affected by these deadly herbicides and how the VA can better support them with benefits and care.”
Throughout the Vietnam War, thousands of veterans served in the Panama Canal Zone. However, the VA does not currently provide benefits to those veterans because they incorrectly claim that herbicide was not used in the area, despite the fact that at least 400 Americans of those who served have now developed cancer, heart disease or other health issues consistent with herbicide exposure.
While proving exposure is nearly impossible due to a lack of record keeping and the inability to know the precise location of spraying, what records exist corroborate the presence of herbicide in the Panama Canal Zone during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
According to the United States’ own records, both Agent Purple and Agent Orange were shipped to Panama from 1958 until at least December 1977. These herbicides were used routinely as needed on military bases in the area as well as used to kill poison ivy, poison oak and sumac where troops were deployed.
By passing today’s amendment, Congress is one step closer to providing thousands of American veterans who were potentially exposed to deadly herbicides with the care and benefits they need and deserve.
The Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act was introduced last August with Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar’s (R-FL-27). The bill has also been endorsed by Military Veterans Advocacy, which works to ensure that the rights of millions of members of the armed forces are protected and that veterans receive their earned benefits without delay from the federal government.
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