This Bipartisan Bill Strengthens Benefits for Vietnam Veterans’ Children Born with Spina Bifida Due to Agent Orange Exposure
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Mike Braun (R-IN) to strengthen the VA Spina Bifida Program to benefit the children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to President Biden’s desk.
Many Vietnam veterans were exposed to the chemical Agent Orange during their service. Children born to those exposed to Agent Orange have a higher risk of spina bifida. Of the estimated 1,500 veterans’ kids suffering from spina bifida in the U.S., fewer than half of those are enrolled in the VA Spina Bifida program. Under Senator Hassan and Braun’s bill, the VA will proactively reach out to potential beneficiaries to make sure that they are getting the benefits that they are eligible for. Those benefits will also now last for the life of the child and are not affected by the death of their parent.
“Vietnam veterans made significant sacrifices for our country, and it is up to us to ensure that their children who were born with spina bifida receive the care that they need,” said Senator Hassan. “I am glad to see this bipartisan bill head to President Biden’s desk so that we can help provide more veterans and their families with the benefits that they have earned and deserve.”
“This legislation will ensure that the children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure to Agent Orange will get the care and benefits they deserve for the rest of their lives. I’m proud to have led this valuable bipartisan bill through the Senate and the House and look forward to it being signed into law for these veterans’ kids,” said Senator Mike Braun.
The bipartisan bill is part of Senator Hassan’s ongoing efforts to support veterans. Senator Hassan helped develop and pass into law the PACT Act, which fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA. The President previously signed into law Senator Hassan’s bipartisan Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021 to direct the VA to create a program to recruit military medical personnel who have less than one year left in their service to work at the VA. Last fall, President Biden also signed into law bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Hassan to strengthen the Solid Start program, through which VA employees contact every veteran three times by phone in the first year after veterans leave active duty service to check in and help connect these new veterans to VA programs and benefits. Additionally, the year-end government funding bill that was signed into law in December 2022 included Senator Hassan’s bipartisan legislation that directs the VA to designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks, which will be held October 16th to 20th for the first time this year.