Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are blocking the confirmation of the Department of Veterans Affairs nominee in an effort to get coverage for service members who were exposed to Agent Orange stateside.
President Obama nominated David Shulkin as the Under Secretary for Health at the VA.
Merkley said he’s trying to get the VA to treat members of the National Guard who were exposed to Agent Orange after the Vietnam War ended. Members of the National Guard used C-123 aircraft.
“We’ve had some very positive, encouraging words about how swiftly this was going to happen and still it hasn’t happened,” he said during an interview Thursday. “In my heart I believe that at this point with the attention we’re drawing to it I hope it happens within a couple days. That would just be tremendous.”
Those planes had been contaminated from carrying the herbicide in Vietnam.
The senators argue the National Guard members are veterans, but said the current VA rules exclude them.
“Overtime we’ve had a better understanding of the Agent Orange impacts, but those who didn’t get directly exposed on the land in Vietnam have had a much harder time having their claims recognized,” said Merkley.