Senator Kirk Joins American Legion to Raise Hepatitis C Awareness for Veterans

Kirk’s Veterans Bill Passed by Appropriations Committee Funds $900 Million Worth of Groundbreaking New Hepatitis C Treatments; Veterans Suffer From Hepatitis C at a Rate Three Times That of the Civilian Population

Summit, Ill. –(ENEWSPF)–May 29, 2015.  In an effort to raise hepatitis C virus (HCV) awareness for veterans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined Marty Conatser, Adjutant of the American Legion Department of Illinois, Paul Gardner, Senior Vice Commander of the American Legion Department of Illinois, and Argo Summit Post Commander Reggie Rice at a free Hepatitis C testing event in Summit, IL. Service Officers from the American Legion and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs were also present to counsel veterans on VA benefit claims and recommend next steps for HCV medical care to any veterans that tested positive for the virus. 

“In the Department of Veterans Affairs we have cured more people of Hepatitis C in the last 16 months than in the last 16 years,” Senator Kirk said. “We will continue work to make sure that those who wore the uniform can have a better life.”

Last week, Senator Kirk’s bipartisan Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill, which funds $900 million worth of groundbreaking new hepatitis C treatments, was passed by the Appropriations Committee. One in ten veterans has HCV, with the risk increasing to one in five for Vietnam veterans. However, once an individual is diagnosed, new Hepatitis C treatments have a 97 percent cure rate. Last year the VA treated approximately 20,000 veterans with these modern, innovative medicines.

Senator Kirk is Chairman of the MilCon/VA Subcommittee and has held a record number of hearings this year ahead of bill introduction. The MilCon/VA bill funds veterans’ care at a record $59.4 billion, which is a $3.4 billion, or 6.5 percent, increase over FY2015.

HCV is an inflammation of the liver and is contracted by direct contact with infected blood. Symptoms can remain dormant for up to 30 years and include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, stomach pain and jaundice. HCV often goes undetected or misdiagnosed.