Sen. Toomey pushes bill allowing vets to sue VA employees

A Chambersburg family talked candidly Friday about issues plaguing the Veterans Affairs centers across the U.S.

“They started spraying that in ’63,” Gary Brehm said.

At the time, Brehm didn’t know that the barrels of herbicide he was transporting by barge would lead to prostate cancer. He says he also wasn’t warned that exposure to it could cause birth defects. 

“I was told later that any male born after the Agent Orange exposure will end up with Spina Bifida, so it’s terrible for what he has gone through,” he said.

He’s talking about his son, Gary Brehm Jr. who also served in the Marines. On top of the Spina Bifida, he says he suffers with trauma that is a direct product of his enlistment.

Both say they have been ignored and denied by the V.A. and if that was done intentionally, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) is calling for consequences. 

“If a veteran is harmed as a result then the veteran would have the ability to sue the individual employee of the V.A. who is responsible for the wrongdoing,” he said Friday at the American Legion headquarters in Wormleysburg. 

ABC27 spoke to the head of Pennsylvania’s Veterans of Foreign Wars and asked — with backlogs in mind, did he ever suspect wrong-doings were taking place behind the scenes of the V.A.

“I always had my doubts, but I could never substantiate. It seems like it is full blown now,” Commander Russell Canevari said.

“On this hand, I served my country with honor,” Brehm Jr. said “But now my country is not there for me.”

He says he would like the disability claims of he and his father to be reviewed and reconsidered but still fears what he calls the “revolving door” of veterans affairs.

“They wanted to keep me in the system,” he said. “This has been revolving since 1994.”

 Brehm Jr. added that he will be among those working towards legal action.

Some veterans, however, say legislators should not be left out of the blame. In 2000 and 2002, Toomey voted against V.A. funding bills.

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