Senate approves expanding list of illnesses tied to Agent Orange

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)- The Senate today overwhelmingly decided to expand the list of illnesses the VA presumes are linked to chemicals used during the Vietnam War.

By a 94-6 vote, senators decided to add bladder cancer, Parkinson’s like symptoms, and hypothyroidism to the 14 ailments already on the VA’s list.

Navy Veteran and Florida Sen. Rick Scott voted against expanding the list. His office has not yet responded to a request for a comment about why Scott was among only six senators to object to expanding medical and disability to veterans who were exposed to herbicides and chemicals and developed bladder cancer, Parkinson’s like symptoms or hypothyroidism.

Florida’s other senator, Marco Rubio voted in favor of the measure which is an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Senator Rubio is obviously very concerned regarding health impacts of herbicides that have been historically used by the United States Military. It was why he was an original sponsor of the Senate version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which became law in June 2019,” Rubio’s office stated.

Navy Veteran Ron Babcock of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, served in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. He has all three illnesses.

Ron Babcock, (far right) served off the coast of Vietnam in 1965-66.

“You would like that when the government sent you in harm’s way and you came home sick that they would take care of you,” Babcock explained.

As a 20-year-old, Ron loaded jets with bombs and missiles aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga. At times the ship sailed within the site of Vietnam, the VA presumes Babcock was exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange that drifted into coastal waters.

Ron Babcock served aboard the U.S.S. Ticonderoga

“Our desalination tanks would have sucked that nasty stuff up and we would’ve bathed in it, drank it and cooked in it,” Babcock explained.

He suffers from diseases the VA presumes are linked to herbicide exposure, and diseases not yet on its approved list.

“Well, I think they’re doing what they always try to do, stall,” Babcock stated.

In 2016 and 2018 researchers at the National Academies of Sciences found evidence suggesting links between the herbicide Agent Orange and bladder cancer, Parkinson’s like symptoms and hypothyroidism. That evidence wasn’t good enough for the VA. It is conducting two more studies.

“My question is why do we need the studies when we’ve already had the National Academy of Sciences have looked at it and done a correct study?” Military Veterans Advocacy Director of Litigation, John Wells asked.

“I think what the government is trying to do is just you know, hide it under the covers until we’re all gone,” Babcock added.

Ron Babcock says it was an honor to serve his country.

“This is the problem we’ve been fighting all along,” Wells said. “The government says yes we’re going to take care of you, but when it comes down to it, they don’t.”

The U.S. House did not include the amendment in its version of the NDAA.

According to Wells, the measure will now go to a joint conference committee so the House and Senate can resolve any differences.

“Very important that these things pass,” Wells added. “Important that the government keep its contract with the Veterans”

If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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