Tuesday, a bill to strengthen the VA Spina Bifida Program to benefit the children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a unanimous vote.
The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously on July 13th of this year.
The bipartisan bill was introduced 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.
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 legislation 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 through the Senate and the House and look forward to it being signed into law for these veterans’ kids.” – Senator Mike Braun
“Vietnam veterans sacrificed significantly for our country, and it is up to us to ensure that their children who were born with spina bifida receive the care that they need,” said Senator Hassan.
“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 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.