The sponsor of a bill to compensate ailing Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange said yesterday that it is time for the federal government to acknowledge life-threatening effects of the toxic defoliant.

"We're told there isn't enough information," said Rep. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.). "But we know it kills animals, and if it kills animals, we ought to assume it kills people, too."

Daschle, addressing a rally on the steps of the Capitol, said it has taken 10 years for many Vietnam veterans "to realize what happened to them."

He said his bill, which has more than 220 cosponsors and will be voted on later this month by a House subcommittee, was as important in assisting Vietnam veterans as giving them help for delayed stress they have suffered since the war.

Dan Jordan, a veteran from Houston who was exposed to Agent Orange and is president of the Brotherhood of Vietnam Veterans, also pressed for passage of the legislation.

"Both my children were born with birth defects and have missing fingers and missing wrist bones," Jordan said. "Yet Vietnam veterans can't get federal compensation for our injuries and those of our children."

The Agent Orange rally held yesterday was the first of two events scheduled to highlight the concerns of Vietnam veterans.

There will be a remembrance service and rally at 11 a.m. today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to support the push for return of, or accounting for, American soldiers believed to be prisoners of war or missing in action.

"This gathering for the Agent Orange legislation is to get what they want from the United States government," said Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. "For too long the Vietnam veterans have stood by and allowed the government to do nothing for them."

Texas already has a program to compensate its Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. Albert Reynolds, leader of an Agent Orange motorcade that is criss-crossing the country alerting people to the problem, yesterday urged Agent Orange sufferers to move to that state, where he said they could be issued "instant residency permits."

"There is no more time for study," Reynolds said.