TEXT OF CONGRESSMAN HIGGINS’ PRESS RELEASE
In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and in remembrance of the sacrifices made by veterans of the Armed Forces, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) this week cosponsored H.R. 4259 calling for the creation of the Veterans’ Right to Know Commission.
The Commission would be given the task of comprehensively investigating the usage of chemical and biological substances used by the US military during wartime and their effect on the men and women of our Armed Services. It would be comprised of honorable citizens and distinguished veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Higgins also inserted remarks into the official Congressional Record honoring the brave men and women of the Armed Forces.
“This Memorial Day, we honor the brave men and women of the nation’s Armed Forces who gave their lives in service, and we recognize all veterans, who courageously defended the United States in times of war and peace,” said Higgins. “All across the country in small towns and large cities, communities come together to thank veterans for their patriotism, devotion, and commitment. We also send our prayers and thoughts to those who have lost loved ones — to young children who have lost a parent, to husbands and wives who have lost spouses, and to mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters. Memorial Day is not only a day to celebrate and pay respect to the lives of our soldiers, but it is an opportunity for the nation to renew its commitment to honor America’s veterans and to pledge to never abandon them or their families, no matter what it takes.”
Higgins cosponsored the Veteran’s Right to Know Bill because of his concern regarding the consequences of exposure to chemical and biological agents like Vx nerve gas, Sarin Nerve Gas and E. coli, which have long been debated by those in the scientific community. Exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide used for ten years during the Vietnam War to defoliate and destroy crops, increases the risk of cancer, and the Air Force and the US Department of Veteran Affairs now officially recognize that exposure to this chemical plays a role in the formation of diabetes. However, some fifty years following initial exposure, other potential health effects of these chemical and biological agents have on the human body are not fully understood.
Higgins believes it is imperative to determine whether exposure to those agents, tested on unknowing military personnel by the Department of Defense between 1962 and 1974, correlates with life threatening diseases. “The American people deserve answers and this Commission will help provide those answers,” said Higgins.
“Thousands of brave veterans of foreign wars reside in my district, individuals who have put their very existence on the line to defend every right, ideal and freedom that this noble country exemplifies. We owe the passage of this legislation to these men and women and to all those who have been exposed to Agent Orange and to other destructive chemicals,” said Higgins.
Higgins was particularly moved to co-sponsor this legislation by the story of Western New York native Nelson C. Hughes. Last year, Mr. Hughes passed away from cancer after being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He was one of the nation’s leading advocates of Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure. “I call on Congress to honor Mr. Hughes and all U.S. veterans this Memorial Day by passing this bill,” added Higgins.
Higgins also addressed the veterans who are threatened by identity theft due to an information leak at the VA. On May 22, 2006, the VA announced that the names, Social Security numbers, disability ratings, and dates of birth of up to 26.5 million veterans have been stolen.
“I want veterans to know that there are those in Congress willing to stand up for them. I have joined as a cosponsor of the Veterans’ Identity Protection Act of 2006,” said Higgins. “This bill calls for an investigation of the Administration’s mishandling of the leak. The bill would also provide veterans with one year of free credit monitoring as well as one free credit report each year for two years after the end of credit monitoring. In addition, if a veteran has been affected by the stolen data, they may visit my website for more information or they may contact my office at 716-852-3501 in Buffalo or 716-484-0729 in Jamestown so that we may help in any way we can.”