November 15, 2019

The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV), along with more than a dozen other veteran organizations are calling on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to add four pending diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive disease list.

As the letter indicates, we support the addition of bladder cancer, hypothyroid conditions, Parkinson-like symptoms, and hypertension to the list as recommended by the National Academy of Medicine.

JWV is concerned that veterans, family members, and survivors have waited three years while the VA considered adding these conditions.

It is imperative that the wait ends now for those men and women who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.

November 15, 2019

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20571

Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of the millions of veterans, service members, their families and survivors that our organizations represent, we call on you to immediately add the four pending diseases recommended by the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine, to the Agent Orange presumptive disease list.

The National Academy of Medicine’s “Veterans and Agent Orange” update published in 2016 concluded that there was compelling evidence for adding bladder cancer and hypothyroid conditions as presumptive diseases. Further, the study clarified that Vietnam veterans with “Parkinson-like symptoms,” but without a formal diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, should be considered under the presumption that Parkinson’s disease and the veterans’ are service connected.

The report noted that although VA has not found hypertension to be presumptively related to service in Vietnam, the committee reaffirmed the conclusions of previous studies that hypertension should be placed in the category of limited or suggestive evidence of association.

The December 2018 National Academy of Medicine report went even further, concluding that there was now sufficient evidence of a relationship between hypertension and Agent Orange and recommended it be added to the presumptive list.  However, VA has yet to take any actions on these four presumptive diseases, leaving thousands of veterans waiting.

At a March 2019 congressional hearing, Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) indicated that a decision on these presumptions could be released within 90 days.  At a Senate hearing in September, Dr. Patricia Hastings, VA Chief Consultant, Post-Deployment Health, noted that VA leadership, in accordance with Policy 0215, had been actively considering the addition of these diseases since early summer.

We are especially concerned by the recent release of internal documents that indicate Administration officials challenged the previous Secretary’s authority to add these four diseases and may have even impeded action.  Even more troubling is the possibility that the Administration is outweighing the cost of adding these diseases over those veterans in need of VA benefits and health care. Three of these pending presumptive diseases have been held up for more than three years, leaving affected veterans, family members and survivors waiting.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.