June 16, 2014 - Conyers Joins with Congressman Honda to Introduce Toxic Exposure Research & Military Family Support Act

Press Release

Provide funding for treatment for descendants of veterans exposed to toxins; ties VA to National Birth Defects Registry

(DETROIT) – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) joined with Congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) to introduce H.R. 4816, the “Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act 2014.” This legislation expands the number of veterans, and their descendants, whose illnesses related to exposure to toxins are covered by the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense. On Tuesday, June 10th, Reps. Conyers and Honda joined representatives of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), the American Legion, AMVETS, and Vietnam veterans and their family members suffering the effects of exposure to toxins like Agent Orange to announce the introduction of the bill.

The act, which is the House companion to Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) S. 1602, instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund treatment for descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins while in combat or during their tours of duty. Toxins such as Agent Orange have been shown to cause birth defects in the children of military personnel who came in to contact with them either during the Vietnam War, in the storage and transportation of them, or by riding in aircraft that had been previous used to transport the toxins. The bill will also require the Department of Veterans Affairs to coordinate with the National Birth Defects Registry and create a central research facility dedicated to studying and chronicling the incidence of birth defects caused by toxins like Agent Orange.

Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect the safety and freedom of all Americans. It is our duty to honor the health and lives of these servicemen and women. That is why I joined with Congressman Mike Honda, Veterans organizations, and the children of impacted servicemen to introduce H.R. 4816, the ‘Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2014.’ These victims deserve justice, and by funding treatment for the descendants of veterans exposed to horrifying toxins, this legislation will go a ways towards ensuring that our veterans are made whole. As a former member of the Michigan National Guard, the Army, Army Reserves, and Army Corps of Engineers, the wellbeing of my fellow veterans and their families is a top priority of mine in Congress. We cannot in good conscience ask our veterans to sacrifice by fighting overseas on our behalf, only to require them and their families to shoulder the burden of service-related health problems when they return.”

Representative Mike Honda (D-Calif.): “My bill will extend care to these veterans who can show that their medical illnesses have a direct relation to a toxic substance they were exposed to. Additionally, this act will take care of the children, grandchildren, and future descendants who have been affected by these poisons. This is about keeping our promise to our veterans. This is about making sure that they get the care that they not only deserve, but that they have earned.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.): “Our legislation will establish a national center for research, diagnosis and treatment for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service, as well as family members of these veterans who are now living with debilitating diseases, birth defects, and other critical conditions. Veterans exposed to toxic chemicals while serving and sacrificing for our freedoms deserve to receive the best medical care, and establishing this national center will ensure that they do. I look forward to working with Congressman Honda, who introduced companion legislation on the House side, to pass this vital legislation.”

Diane M. Zumatto, National Legislative Director of AMVETS: “Veterans from every era, especially our Gulf War veterans, have suffered, and continue to suffer, from the often debilitating effects of a variety of toxic exposures, often with no knowledge of their original exposure and with little to no hope of relief. This legislation could well be the first step towards achieving some acknowledgement and relief for our veterans.”

Stephanie Tompkins, the daughter of Richard Switzer, a Vietnam era veteran exposed to Agent Orange: “My brother, myself, and our children are innocent victims of our father’s honorable service to America in Vietnam in which dioxins were sprayed.  Our entire family would like to thank Congressman Honda for introducing this health companion Bill H.R. 4816.”

Karen Worthington, whose father Herb Worthington was exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War: “This legislation shows that people are listening.  It validates our cause. Thank you, Congressman Honda, for helping us.”

Ian DePlanque with The American Legion’s: “The American Legion is proud to support Congressman Honda and his initiative to ensure veterans and their families exposed to toxic dangers on the battlefield get the help they have earned.  America needs to take care of its veterans, and that starts with treating the patients, then researching these environmental exposures so we can improve treatments and ensure we never subject our service members to these harms again."

VVA National President John Rowan: “We applaud Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and his colleagues in the House of Representatives, for introducing H.R. 4816, the Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2014. Among the so-called invisible wounds of war are those brought home by troops that may not manifest for a decade, or more. And most tragically, they may pass on genetically to the children and grandchildren of our nation’s warriors. Our children are the innocent victims of our military service.”

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Highlights of the press conference can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLdMf9QVnHA 

You can see the press conference, in its entirety, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oIfYumspB8&feature=youtu.be

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