I am pleased today to sign into law H.R. 556, the "Agent Orange Act of 1991." This legislation relies on science to settle the troubling questions concerning the effect on veterans of exposure to herbicides -- such as Agent Orange -- used during the Vietnam era.
H.R. 556 will have three primary effects:
-- It will codify decisions previously made by my Administration with respect to presumptions of service connection related to the Vietnam experience and herbicide exposure.
-- It will establish a new procedure for determining whether particular diseases are related to exposure to Agent Orange. This includes calling upon the National Academy of Sciences to study the scientific evidence concerning the potential health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam.
-- It will provide a reasoned and scientific basis for determining whether to proceed with further studies concerning the effects of exposure to herbicides.
The issue of the effects of exposure to Agent Orange is one of deeply held, but divisive, beliefs. I believe that my Administration has done an exemplary job in carrying out the mandate of Public Law 98 - 542, the "Veterans' Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act." I want to express my particular thanks to the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Environmental Hazards, a Federal advisory committee established by that law. This committee, since its creation in 1985, has done a thoroughly professional job in carrying out its assigned duties.
Nevertheless, I am aware of the concern of some that a nongovernmental review would be of value. Accordingly, I applaud the efforts of the Congress to work toward a thoughtful and meaningful compromise of the Agent Orange issue.
My Administration has stated many times one overriding goal in this area -- providing the truth to Vietnam veterans about the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. I believe that this legislation will further that goal, and I am therefore pleased to sign H.R. 556.
The White House,
February 6, 1991.