VVA Press Release

BIPARTISAN SENATE EFFORT CLEARS WAY FOR UNPRECEDENTED SPINA BIFIDA LEGISLATION, ONE HURDLE REMAINS


WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Senate, in a strong bipartisan show of support, voted last week 62-35 in favor of an unprecedented amendment to compensate children suffering illness as a result of parent's military service.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), would create a benefits package for children afflicted with spina bifida as a result of their parents' exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. Spina bifida is a debilitating, incurable birth defect resulting when a fetus' spine fails to form properly.

The legislation faces a major obstacle next week when it reaches the Senate Conference Committee where opponents have said they will eliminate the amendment by reconciling the bill with the House version, which has no provisions for compensating children of veterans. Carl Stout, executive director of VVA, says, "We have been working on the Agent Orange issue for years and fought many battles for our veterans, but I'm especially concerned for this amendment because it affects the innocent children of those who served."

Although a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report issued this past March showed a correlation between spina bifida and veteran parents' exposure to Agent Orange, critics have argued that the amendment would set a terrible precedent because Congress has never provided veterans' benefits to children for harm they suffered as a result of their parents' military service. But Vietnam Veterans of America and other proponents of the amendment say that, though veterans were asked to risk their lives and their health by serving in Vietnam, they were never asked to risk the lives and health of their children. "Critics of the legislation are second guessing the NAS study, but the NAS did its job as required by law and found the correlation between herbicide exposure and spina bifida in veterans children. Now it's time for Congress to act," says Stout. "Congress cannot abandon the children of veterans who suffer because their parents served their country."

The Daschle amendment is attached to the VA, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies fiscal year 1997 Appropriation Bill, which passed by a nearly unanimous vote last week.

The amendment is supported by a coalition of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, the National Association of Veteran Family Service Organizations, the Spina Bifida Association of America, and the American Association of University Affiliated Programs for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

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Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation's only Congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.


Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.
A Not-For-Profit Veterans Service Organization Chartered by the United States Congress


For Further Information Contact:

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.
Attn.: Mokie Pratt Porter
1224 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005-5183
Tel: 202-628-2700 ext. 146
General FAX: 202-628-5880
Communications FAX: 202-783-4942
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URL: http://www.vva.org

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