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NVLSP Supports Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s and Rep. Raul Ruiz’s Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters

Released 9/15/20 | Tags: Agent Orange, Congressional Legislation, Veteran's Benefits

NVLSP Supports Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s and Rep. Raul Ruiz’s “Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2020” at Press Conference


WASHINGTON – Today, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) attended a press conference in support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY)and Rep. Raul Ruiz’s M.D. (D-CA) new legislation, the “Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2020.”  The bill, an amendment to Title 38, U.S.C., would provide a presumption of service connection for certain diseases associated with exposure to toxins, and other purposes.  This legislation would ease the burden of proof for veterans seeking VA benefits for medical conditions resulting from their exposure to burn pits and other toxic emissions during their military service.  

NVLSP joined Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Ruiz, Jon Stewart, former talk show host and advocate, John Feal, 9/11 activist, Burn Pits 360 and other veteran service organizations on Capitol Hill for the announcement of the legislation. 

“We applaud Sen Gillibrand’s and Rep. Ruiz’s dedication and efforts to help our military men and women who have been enduring catastrophic illnesses resulting from exposure to toxic emissions from burn pits. This legislation is long overdue,” said Bart Stichman, Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program.  

“Sen. Gillibrand’s and Rep. Ruiz’s legislation does for victims of toxic exposures and burn pits what the Agent Orange Act did for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam,” said Stichman.  

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 came about as a result of NVLSP ‘s landmark 1986 case, Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which invalidated the VA regulation that stated chloracne was the only disease associated with exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange.  Since 1991, VA has been forced to recognize that there is a positive medical association between Agent Orange exposure and diabetes, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more than a dozen different types of cancer.  

The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2020 would remove the obligation for the veteran to prove exposure and to prove that their medical condition resulted from such exposure. Based on this legislation, the veteran need only provide proof of (1) deployment to one of the countries listed in the bill or evidence of receiving a service-medal associated with the Global War on Terror or Gulf War, and (2) a medical diagnosis of one of the presumptive diseases listed in the bill.

The bill includes these presumptive conditions: Asthma that was diagnosed after service in a country or territory listed, Cancer of any type, Chronic bronchitis, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, Emphysema, Granulomatous disease, Interstitial lung disease, Lymphoma, Pleuritis, Pulmonary fibrosis, and Sarcoidosis. 

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law.  NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.2 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation's definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies and federal courts. For more information, go to www.nvlsp.org.

Media contacts:
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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