The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure
Last year, Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have announced that their bipartisan legislation to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits has passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. Last year, Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits.
“It took the government years after the Vietnam War to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and the devastating health effects on our soldiers. We can’t let history repeat itself—burn pits can’t become today’s Agent Orange,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why passing this bipartisan bill to support our nation’s heroes - who served in Iraq and Afghanistan - along with their families, has remained one of my top priorities. We need to better understand and address the relationship between burn pit exposure and the health needs of our brave men and women in uniform, and this bill will help accomplish that.”
“Many of our brave men and women in uniform were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have an obligation to care for them,” said Senator Tillis. “Understanding the health effects associated with exposure to burn pits is the beginning of that commitment, and I am proud this provision was included in the final version of the NDAA’s Senate passage. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure this legislation is signed into law soon so we can begin providing resources to the VA and provide treatment to veterans who became sick after exposure.”
The burning of waste on military bases exposed many servicemembers to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed soldiers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.
Original co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Klobuchar and Tillis also introduced this legislation in the last Congress.
Klobuchar has worked in a bipartisan manner to modernize G.I. Bill benefits for our troops and to strengthen funding for veterans’ health care. Last year, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, bipartisan legislation she led with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to improve the Veteran Suicide Crisis Line (VCL), was signed into law by the president. Klobuchar and Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) bipartisan bill to establish a patient self-scheduling appointment system at Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities was signed into law by the President last December. The bipartisan Faster Care for Veterans Act directs the Secretary of the VA to commence a pilot program under which veterans could use the internet to schedule and confirm appointments for health care at VA medical facilities.