By, Ripon Advance News Service. Published on May 20, 2019

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on May 16 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would direct the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to increase access to hepatitis C testing for Vietnam-era veterans.

“I’m proud to introduce this life-saving and common sense legislation to protect and support Vietnam-era veterans,” said Rep. Stefanik, who introduced the Vietnam Era Veterans Hepatitis C Testing Enhancement Act, H.R. 2816, with eight cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Paul Cook (R-CA) and Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA).

“Millions of veterans who sacrificed for our nation were unknowingly exposed to HCV [hepatitis C virus] during their service and, unfortunately, access to proper testing is limited at best,” the congresswoman said. “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.”

According to information provided by Rep. Stefanik’s office, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made substantial progress in using congressionally dedicated resources to test and treat U.S. military veterans for HCV.

However, the lawmaker said that the VA has tested just 78 percent of the two million Vietnam-era veterans enrolled in VA care and has not considered former service members who do not meet VA-eligibility criteria.

That means roughly seven million veterans considered at high-risk for infection could be unaware of their status, according to Rep. Stefanik’s office, which said medical sources report Vietnam-era veterans are up to 10 times higher risk than the general population for having HCV.

“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,” she added.

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