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Veterans try to pass 'Toxic Exposure Research Act'

LAWTON, Okla._Veterans still dealing with health complications after facing deadly chemicals in war are pushing for more research, for the sake of their kids.

They want to get the attention of Oklahoma's congressional delegation, and eventually approval from the president, for the 'Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015'. But first, they want more input from local veterans, and they hope to get that at a town hall meeting later this month.

The bill would establish a national center for research for the health conditions of the children and grandchildren of those exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides. Agent Orange has already been connected to diseases such as chronic B-cell Leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and respiratory cancer, among others. Now, veterans want answers and help for the later generations.

Nate Washington, president of the Oklahoma State Council for Vietnam Veterans of America, says his surgeries and multiple diagnoses have inspired him more to help get the bill signed.

"I ended up with severe heart disease, blood disorders, diabetes and all. In the end, my heart was just shot. In 2013, I had to have a heart transplant," Washington said.

Tor Littau is the chairman for the Comanche County Veterans Council, and a veteran himself. He says this bill would help veterans in a variety of fields.

"There are a lot of issues, and not just with Agent Orange, with Persian Gulf, but with other things. To have the public educated and have the veterans affairs work with us, it's an important step," Littau said.

Washington hopes people in the future won't be afraid to get their story out there.

"You can get help. And get out there and get it," Washington said.

To further discuss the bill, there will be a group of guest panelists and a question and answer portion during the meeting. Washington said that half of the states with the council have already held similar forums and they expect every state to have one by the end of the year.

The Oklahoma chapter plans to have more meetings later this year in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Ponca City.

The meeting in Lawton is set for August 22 at 1:00 p.m. at the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center. All veterans are welcome and encouraged to attend.

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