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Senate Advances Bill To Expand Benefits For Veterans Exposed To Agent Orange

Veterans suffering from three health conditions related to Agent Orange exposure are closer to receiving expanded benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate advanced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of conditions considered linked to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. Bill Garberg is a Vietnam veteran from Great Falls with Parkinsonism.

“The men that have survived this long should get some help,” he said. “The help that they deserve.”

According to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s office, about 30% of Montana's veterans served in Vietnam and may have been affected by exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans make up a larger portion of Montana’s population than the national average: About 1 in 10 adults in the state are veterans.

Tester, who proposed the Senate amendment to expand the VA benefits for Agent Orange exposure, says he's optimistic the amendment will survive bill negotiations with the U.S. House.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.
Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.