Summary: H.R.556 — 102nd Congress (1991-1992)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (01/29/1991)

Agent Orange Act of 1991 - Presumes the following diseases to be service-connected and resulting from exposure to dioxins and other herbicide agents during service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era unless there is affirmative evidence to the contrary: (1) non-Hodgkins lymphoma, each soft-tissue sarcoma (with certain exceptions), and chloracne or other consistent acneform diseases becoming manifest to a degree of disability of ten percent or more; and (2) those additional diseases that the Secretary determines warrant such a presumption by reason of having a positive association with a herbicide agent, if they become manifest within the appropriate period.

Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to prescribe regulations providing that a presumption of service connection is warranted whenever it is determined by the Secretary that a positive association exists between the exposure of humans to a herbicide agent and the occurrence of a disease in humans. Requires the Secretary to take into account reports received from the National Academy of Sciences, as well as other sound medical and scientific information. Outlines procedures to be followed by the Secretary in weighing evidence and report information and making conclusions for or against the positive association and, therefore, the service-connection presumption. Provides for the issuance of final regulations listing the diseases for which positive associations have been found or removing the presumption for a disease.

Directs the Secretary to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) under which NAS shall review and summarize the scientific evidence (and its strength) concerning the association between exposure to a herbicide agent during service in Vietnam and each disease suspected to be associated with such exposure. Provides for NAS: (1) scientific determinations concerning diseases; (2) recommendations for additional studies to resolve areas of uncertainty relating to herbicide exposure; (3) subsequent reviews; and (4) reports, at least biennially, to the Secretary and the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees (the veterans' committees). Terminates the agreement ten years after the fiscal year of the first report from NAS.

Directs the Secretary to enter into an agreement with another body if the Secretary cannot reach an agreement with NAS within two months after enactment of this Act.

Amends the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 1988 to direct the Secretary to annually furnish updated information on health risks associated with exposure to herbicide agents during service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era.

Extends through 1993 the eligibility for hospital, nursing home, or domiciliary care and medical treatment of individuals who served in Vietnam and who have been determined to have been exposed to dioxin or a toxic substance in a herbicide as the result of such service and of veterans exposed to ionizing radiation while serving between September 11, 1945 and July 1, 1946.

Directs the Secretary to compile and analyze, on a continuing basis, all clinical data obtained by the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with examinations and treatment furnished to veterans by the Department after November 3, 1981, for exposure to herbicide agents in Vietnam and which is likely to be useful in determining the exposure to such agents and the disabilities suffered. Requires an annual report on such compilations and provides funding.

Directs the Secretary, for facilitating research on the effects of exposure to herbicides used in Vietnam, to establish and maintain a system for the collection and storage of voluntarily contributed blood and tissue samples of veterans who served there. Provides for: (1) specimen security; (2) authorized use; (3) limitations on acceptance of samples; and (4) authority based on specific funding.

Directs the Secretary to establish a scientific research feasibility studies program for conducting research on health hazards resulting from: (1) exposure to dioxin; (2) exposure to other toxic agents in herbicides used in Vietnam; and (3) active military service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Outlines program and report requirements. Directs the Secretary to consult with NAS.

Directs the Secretary, upon the request of a Vietnam veteran who has applied for Department medical care and filed a claim for, or is in receipt of, disability compensation, to obtain a blood sample to conduct a test for the presence of a specified dioxin. Provides for notification to the veteran of test results and significance and requires such blood sample to be maintained as part of the collection of blood and tissue samples required under this Act. Makes conforming amendments and provides for alternative effective dates.