Bill could grant benefits to veterans exposed to Agent Orange, herbicide
Hagåtña, GUAM — Guam Delegate Mike San Nicolas is one of at least two members of Congress working on a bill that seeks to grant benefits for presumptive exposure to herbicides with toxic components, such as Agent Orange, to U.S. service members who served on Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll.
If the veteran disability benefits bill becomes law, it could open the door for residents to also seek medical help for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides, during and after the Vietnam War.
San Nicolas said he's agreed to introduce legislation advocating veterans' causes related to Agent Orange and that the bill is now under review.
The delegate acknowledged in a Facebook Live address that a lot of groundwork has been done by people in and outside Guam on the issue of Agent Orange exposure.
Attorney John Wells, executive director of the Louisiana-based Military Veterans Advocacy, and Brian Moyer, a retired Marine and organizers for the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, met with San Nicolas on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Wells and Moyer later said that Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, R-Fla., also agreed to be an original sponsor of the bill, "The Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Herbicide Relief Act."
The proposed bipartisan bill seeks to establish presumptive coverage for veterans who, during active military, naval or air service, served on Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, or within harbors and territorial seas of those islands from Jan. 9, 1962 to July 31, 1980, and those who served on Johnston Island from Jan. 1, 1972 to Sept. 30, 1977.
"Those health issues that have and, are still causing serious issues on Guam, CNMI American Samoa are also showing up in the military dependents, their spouses, children, grandchildren and now even great-grandchildren. The veterans who served on Guam and the other locations are falling through the cracks and nothing is being recorded, as far as we know, statistically, by the VA," Moyer said.