WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A veteran’s advocacy group is urging Congress to provide additional VA health benefits to veterans who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals while serving in Guam and American Samoa.
Eyewitness News Washington Correspondent Mark Meredith with why some say the effort is long overdue.
Sheila Kilpatrick’s husband Lonnie died of cancer last year.
She says his poor health stemmed from exposure to toxic chemicals, like agent orange, while he served in Guam in the 1970s.
“We know this was due to the herbicides that were sprayed on Guam, we know that we witnessed the spraying” Said Kilpatrick.
The Kilpatrick family says they faced pushback from the VA over efforts to get additional health benefits.
Two congressmen call that unacceptable.
“Four decades is far too long, we can’t wait any longer, our veterans are heroes,” Said Florida Representative Gus Bilirakis.
Bilirakis and Guam’s delegate introduced a new bill to expand health benefits for veterans who served in the Pacific Islands.
“If it was toxic enough for us to discontinue their use since in 1980, then it was creating hazards for our veterans and our communities, that we need to acknowledge,” Said Rep. Michael San Nicolas, Guam
In January a federal judge ruled the v-a must consider benefit claims from navy veterans who say they too were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving off the Vietnam Coast.
Veteran advocates say that ruling allows them to focus on cases involving people who served in Guam.
Kilpatrick says she expects the fight will take months but remains optimistic.
“Oh I’m not giving up, no way I’m giving up, I’ll fight wherever I have to go, I don’t like to fly but if i have to fly…I’ll fly again”