WASHINGTON – Today, a bill to strengthen the VA Spina Bifida Program to benefit the children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange was signed into law by President Biden.
The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously on July 13th of this year.
The bipartisan bill was led by Senator Mike Braun and Senator Maggie Hassan with original cosponsors Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Cory Booker, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Raphael Warnock, Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Todd Young, and Senator Rick Scott.
The House version of the bill was led by Representative Jim Baird of Indiana’s 4th district.
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 this bill, the VA will proactively reach out to these beneficiaries to make sure they are getting the benefits 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.
“This law 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 into law and look forward to helping these veterans’ kids.” – Senator Mike Braun
“Agent Orange not only had a devastating impact on service members exposed to it, but also posed medical risks to their children,” said Senator Hassan. “We must make sure that this generation gets the necessary medical care, and our new bipartisan law will help ensure that more veterans’ children get the care and benefits that they need and deserve. I will continue working to get veterans and their families the support that they need to thrive.”
“Our veterans made a tremendous sacrifice when they chose to serve our country. This legislation would help the children of Florida veterans, who were exposed to Agent Orange, and born with spina bifida, by making it easier for them to access high quality resources and care.” – Senator Marco Rubio
“The children of Vietnam veterans are encouraged to take advantage of the benefits available to them due to their parent’s service, but many are unaware that these benefits exist,” said Congressman Baird. “This legislation will strengthen the benefits available to the children of Vietnam veterans who suffer from spina bifida and establishes a plan to contact eligible individuals.”
- The OCC Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program Guide states, “This program provides services and supplies for enrolled beneficiaries for all covered medical conditions, not simply those related to Spina Bifida.” This assistance includes instrumental activities of daily living (i.e., cleaning a house or apartment, showering, cooking, etc).
- The VA Inspector General (VAOIG) reported serious problems with the administration of the Spina Bifida program in their 2021 report, including failure to deliver benefits appropriately and to conduct proper oversight, leading to waste of taxpayer dollars.
- It is estimated over 1,500 Veterans’ children suffer from Spina Bifida in the U.S. and yet fewer than half of those are enrolled in the program.
View bill text here.
More information about the bill here.
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