Guam – Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas and Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis on Thursday introduced a bill aimed to better facilitate the benefit claims filed by veterans who are afflicted with diseases believed caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
H.R. 1713 would grant “presumptive herbicide exposure status” to U.S. service members who served on Guam and American Samoa between 1962 and 1980. “The historical data is conclusive that extremely harmful levels of dioxin were present and service members were undoubtedly exposed,” San Nicolas said in filing the legislation, dubbed “The Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Relief Act,” in honor of a Navy veteran stationed on Guam who died of cancer due to herbicide exposure.
Kilpatrick died in May last year, barely weeks after winning his long battle against the Department of Veterans Affairs’ denial of his Agent Orange claims. In April 2018, the department eventually reversed its previous order and awarded his benefits, retroactive to 2010.
The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by American Samoa Rep. Aumua Radewagen and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. It would apply to veterans who served on Guam and American Samoa between Jan. 9, 1962 and July 31, 1980, or Johnston Atoll between Jan. 9, 1962 and July 31, 1980.
“The environment was also impacted, with saturation levels prolonging exposures on a regular basis. The harm is undeniable, and the need for justice equally so,” San Nicolas said.