Summary: S.1153 — 101st Congress (1989-1990)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (08/03/1989)

Veterans' Agent Orange Exposure and Vietnam Service Benefits Act of 1989 - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay a monthly disability or death benefit to a veteran or his or her survivors for any disability or death of a veteran who served in the active forces in Vietnam during the Vietnam era and who suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma or a soft-tissue sarcoma. Provides an exception to the payment of such benefits when there is affirmative evidence that such disease was not incurred during such service in Vietnam or that there was an intervening disease since such service. Provides the rates for the payment of such disability or death benefit. Prohibits such payments when other disability compensation is being paid for such disability. Provides that such disabilities shall be treated as service-connected for the purposes of all laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (Department). Terminates such payments as of April 15, 1992, unless extended by a joint resolution of the Congress. Outlines congressional procedures for the consideration of such joint resolution. Requires the Secretary to take all reasonable actions necessary to notify eligible veterans and their survivors of the availability of such payments. Requires the Secretary to inform such recipients of the temporary nature of such payments.

Provides that the disease of chloracne in Vietnam veterans shall be considered to have been service-connected if such disease became manifest to a ten percent degree of disability or more within one year after the last date on which the veteran performed such service in Vietnam.

Provides a presumption of service-connection in the case of a Vietnam veteran suffering from a disease associated with effects of exposure to certain dioxins or other herbicide agents during such service in Vietnam. Directs the Secretary to prescribe regulations listing a positive association between any disease and the biological effects of exposure to a herbicide agent in Vietnam. Requires the Secretary to update such list continually. Requires the Secretary, in prescribing and revising such list, to obtain by contract the determinations and estimates of a contract scientific organization. Requires such organization to: (1) determine which diseases have any degree of association with the biological effects of exposure to a herbicide agent; and (2) estimate the extent of association between each such disease and each such biological effects. Requires the organization to determine such association specifically with respect to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, each soft-tissue sarcoma, lung cancer, and each other cancer. Outlines contract provisions required in such agreements between the Secretary and the scientific organization, including surveys, evaluations, and periodic determinations. Requires such scientific organizations to provide reports to the Secretary and the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees regarding its determinations and evaluations. Requires such organization to determine, in the event of a positive association, whether there is a reasonable basis for concluding that a Vietnam veteran with the highest level of exposure to that herbicide agent in Vietnam was exposed to such agent under the circumstances necessary for such biological effects. Requires a report from the organization to the Secretary and the veterans' committees when no such reasonable basis is found. Requires the Secretary to make certain determinations and follow-up reports after receiving such reports from the contract scientific organization, including the issuance of a report to the veterans' committees and the promulgation of positive association regulations, if necessary. Requires benefits to be continued even though a disease is removed from the lists of diseases having positive associations. Terminates such contracting authority ten years after the first day of the fiscal year in which a scientific organization transmits its first report to the Secretary. Provides interim regulations and special effective dates.

Directs the Secretary to compile and analyze all clinical data that: (1) are obtained by the Department in connection with examinations and treatment of veterans for disabilities related to exposure to certain herbicides or to service in Vietnam; and (2) are likely to be scientifically useful in determining the association, if any, between the disabilities of such veterans and their exposure to such herbicides and other toxic substances. Requires the Secretary to submit an annual report to the veterans' committees concerning such analysis and its results. Directs the Secretary to consult with the Director of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) before compiling and analyzing such information. Requires the Director of OTA to review each annual report submitted by the Secretary and transmit to the Secretary an evaluation of the contents of each report.

Directs the Secretary to establish and maintain a system for the collection and storage of voluntarily contributed samples of blood and tissue of veterans who performed active service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Outlines provisions concerning the security and authorized uses of such specimens, as well as limitations on the acceptance of such samples. Requires the Secretary to consult with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to the extent that an agreement has been reached with the NAS serving as the contract scientific organization for the Secretary. Requires the Secretary to consult with the Director of OTA if no agreement is made with NAS.

Directs the Secretary to establish a program to provide for the conduct of studies of the feasibility of conducting additional scientific research on health hazards resulting from: (1) exposure to dioxin; (2) exposure to other toxic agents in herbicides used in support of U.S. and allied military operations in Vietnam during the Vietnam era; and (3) active military, naval, or air service there. Requires the Secretary to report to the veterans' committees on the results of such studies. Requires the Secretary to consult with NAS before undertaking such studies and requires NAS to review such studies and report recommendations to the Secretary and the veterans' committees to the extent provided under any agreement between the Secretary and NAS.

Amends the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 1988 to require the Secretary to annually furnish updated information to individuals listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange Registry on health risks resulting from exposure to dioxin or other toxic agents in herbicides as a result of service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era.

Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to report to the veterans' committees on the research being conducted to develop treatments for psychological absorption of dioxin and other toxic agents used in herbicides by the United States in Vietnam, including research relating to exposure to dioxin and other toxic agents outside Vietnam.

Extends through December 31, 1993, the eligibility for hospital and nursing home care for veterans exposed to toxic substances in Vietnam.

Amends the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 1988 to authorize direct consultation between the Ranch Hand Advisory Committee and Department of the Air Force scientists conducting the Ranch Hand Study (a study of the long-term health effects of exposure to phenoxy herbicides and contaminants). Requires the preparation and submission of annual reports and a final report in connection with such study.