Salazar Leads Effort to Expand Benefits & Services for Veterans

Salazar Leads Effort to Expand Benefits & Services for Veterans

“At least 400 veterans who served in the Panama Canal Zone (PCZ) have now developed cancer, heart disease, or other healthy issues consistent with herbicide exposure.

Daniel Molina
Daniel Molina
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February 22, 2024

Florida Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R) is leading a bipartisan delegation of House members to expand benefits and services for veterans. Joining him in leading the charge is Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro (D). The effort would ensure benefits and services for veterans who are stricken with cancer and other health conditions after exposure to toxic herbicide during service in the Panama Canal Zone (PCZ).

The effort comes in the form of a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 17 House members have endorsed the letter, urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the benefits and services for veterans.

In the letter, the members write that “at least 400 veterans who served in the Panama Canal Zone (PCZ) have now developed cancer, heart disease, or other healthy issues consistent with herbicide exposure. However, they have been consistently denied the disability compensation and recognition they desperately need and deserve.”

The lawmakers stress that the Department of Veterans Affairs “to use the processes within the PACT Act to provide PCZ Veterans with the compensation they earned and need.”

Reps. Castro and Salazar along with a bipartisan delegation of House members introduced the Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act last year.

The bill, if passed, would establish a statutory presumption of service connection for more than a dozen illnesses and conditions that are associated with exposure to herbicide in the PCZ between 1958 and 1999.

Commenting on the bill, Rep. Salazar noted that “Florida is home to numerous veterans who served our country by patrolling the Panama Canal while our military was stationed there.” “We need to provide our veterans with the healthcare they deserve, and which they need. They risked their lives every day for our country, it’s only right to be there for them in their time of need.”

Other House members that have signed on to the letter that was directed to the Department of Veterans Affairs include Florida Reps. Brian Mast (R), Kat Cammack (R), Gus Bilirakis (R), and Texas Rep. Greg Casar (D).

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Daniel Molina

Daniel Molina

Daniel Molina is an award-winning senior reporter based in Miami. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Florida International University. His hobbies include reading, writing, and watching films.

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