Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has introduced the Vietnam Era Veterans Hepatitis C Testing Enhancement Act. This bill enhances the VA’s efforts by providing for a pilot project to study the benefits of implementing enhanced eligibility for all Vietnam and Vietnam Era Veterans in order to facilitate access to existing Hepatitis C testing through the VA.
“I’m proud to introduce this life-saving and commonsense legislation to protect and support Vietnam Era Veterans during Hepatitis Awareness Month,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Millions of veterans who sacrificed for our nation were unknowingly exposed to HCV during their service, and unfortunately, access to proper testing is limited at best. This pilot program will focus on ways we can expand testing and treatment for our heroes in order to protect those to whom we owe our freedom. As the representative of more veterans than any Congressional district in New York State, I will always prioritize their issues and work to deliver results for them in Congress.”
"As a Vietnam War veteran and Hepatitis C survivor I have seen the damage firsthand this deadly disease has done and continues to do to my brothers who served alongside me,” said Daniel L. Kaifetz, USMC 1970-1972. “A generation of American heroes faced not only the hardships of the war, but also of this disease which so many still carry today. The majority of those infected with Hepatitis C are not aware they have it, and without treatment it can lead to liver cancer and other serious health complications. The rate of Hepatitis C infection among Vietnam veterans is expected to be notably higher than the current rate for military personnel or civilians. This important pilot study will help raise awareness and gain public health information for veterans and the medical community. Moreover, it is imperative that we provide an effective rapid testing program for all Vietnam veterans. This legislation is an important step in honoring the sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans by making their health a priority.”
Congress dedicated specific resources to enable the VA to test and treat Veterans for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and VA has made significant progress to date. However, these efforts primarily focused on Veterans enrolled in the VA, testing only 78% of the two million Vietnam-era Veterans enrolled in VA care. This does not consider former service members that do not meet VA eligibility criteria, effectively leaving as many as seven million considered at high-risk for infection unaware of their status. Medical literature shows that Vietnam Era Veterans are at up to 10 times higher risk than the general population for having HCV. This bipartisan bill has 8 cosponsors.