Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) visited Ithaca on Thursday to stand with local veterans organizations and call on the federal government to approve a request that would provide wider coverage to veterans suffering from their exposure to Agent Orange chemicals during the Vietnam War.
Schumer argued that considering the sacrifices the veterans made, their cases shouldn't be delayed for years as they have, and called on the Office of Management and Budget to release billions in funding that the federal Office of Veterans' Affairs have said they would approve to cover latent impacts of Agent Orange exposure, like bladder cancer, kidney cancer, hyperthyroidism and other conditions that have been recently discovered to be linked to Agent Orange. The money would serve to provide benefits for veterans so that the recently discovered symptoms or illnesses would be covered by their healthcare, in addition to what is already handled.
"We are pushing the OMB to reverse its decision," Schumer said. "To ask these great men like the people behind me, to risk their lives for us in bad conditions and then come home and not be treated like heroes, which was a bad chapter in our history [...] In any case, OMB just didn't want to spend the money."
Schumer called the the Office of Management and Budget "a bunch of bean-counters" who "don't have a heart and don't have a brain," considering their treatment of the veterans' requests.
In a press release preceding the event, J.R. Clairborne, the director of the Tompkins County Office of Veteran Services, said "Many of our military Veterans put their lives on the line in defense of our nation. Providing care for the maladies connected to Agent Orange and similar exposures seems the least that our leaders should do in obligation, and in thanks. Particularly for our older veterans who are suffering from service-connected health conditions seen and unseen, effective and immediate advocacy at the highest levels of government is needed."