Sen. Rob Portman will support legislation that would more readily extend Veterans Affairs benefits to Vietnam War-era veterans who served in Thailand and suffered exposure to herbicides, his office said Thursday.
“After reviewing the legislation, Sen. Portman decided to cosponsor this legislation and believes that veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving our nation in Thailand during Vietnam should be granted these VA benefits,” said Emmalee Kalmbach, press secretary for the Republican senator.
The senator joins Sen. Sherrod Brown, who announced his own support for the bill earlier this month.
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The support comes after numerous veterans pushed both senators to consider backing the bill. It also comes after the Dayton Daily News and WHIO recently published stories outlining the challenges many Thailand veterans face in securing VA benefits.
The legislation — Senate Bill 1381 — would alter the benefits landscape so that U.S. military veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War will be presumed to have been exposed to herbicide agents, sometimes popularly called “Agent Orange.”
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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. That presumption makes it easier for them to win benefits.
However, those who served in Thailand are offered no such presumption.