Ohio senator to co-sponsor VA bill for Thailand benefits

Sen. Sherrod Brown will co-sponsor a bill that would more readily extend Veterans Affairs benefits to Vietnam War-era veterans who served in Thailand and suffered exposure to herbicides.

The bill — Senate Bill 1381 — would modify the presumption of a service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the U.S. armed forces in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

The step comes after the Dayton Daily News and WHIO recently ran stories outlining the challenges many Thailand veterans face in securing VA benefits.

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American soldiers, Marines and airmen who served in Vietnam enjoy a nearly automatic VA presumption that they were exposed to these herbicides, sometimes popularly called “Agent Orange.” That presumption makes it easier for them to win crucial benefits.

However, those who served in Thailand are offered no such presumption. Thailand veterans have to make their case to the VA, proving exposure — and they say that case can be difficult to make sometimes.

“We’re the stepchildren of the Vietnam War because we weren’t in country in the Vietnam War,” Bob McHenry, 72, of Centerville, recently told Cox Media Group Ohio.

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The bill was introduced in May by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. It has been read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

“All veterans exposed to Agent Orange, or other toxic chemicals during their military service, should have access to care and benefits,” Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement late Monday. “These veterans are being denied benefits because of where they served. It’s time to make this right.”

Air Force veteran Paul Skinner said Brown’s office called him Monday and told him the senator will co-sponsor the bill.

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