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Maria Elvira Salazar Goes to Bat for Veterans Who Served in the Panama Canal Zone

Last week, U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., introduced the “Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act.”

The bill “ provides Panama Canal veterans access to the healthcare they deserve to treat illness contracted through exposure to deadly herbicides.”

The congresswoman’s office offered some of the details of the proposal.

“The Panama Canal Zone Veterans Act provides veterans who served in the Panama Canal Zone from 1958-1999 the appropriate healthcare benefits and disability compensation associated with their military service. Specifically, it establishes a presumptive exposure to Agent Orange for those that served in active duty in this area. Under a presumption of service-connection, certain conditions diagnosed in veterans are presumed to have been caused by the circumstances of their military service. This means they could receive federal benefits and disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA),” Salazar’s office noted.

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

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Salazar rounded up seven co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Darren Soto, D-Fla.

“San Antonio is proud to be Military City, USA because we know how important veterans and their families are to our community and the nation,” said Castro. “Yet, for too long, America’s veterans have returned home only to fight an uphill battle for the healthcare and benefits they earned. This bill delivers much-needed relief and support to those suffering from illnesses that stem from active-duty service in the Panama Canal Zone.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.


  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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