Package includes Klobuchar and Crapo’s bipartisan legislation to require the VA to provide health care personnel with improved training on illnesses related to toxic exposures
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) announced that a comprehensive package of bipartisan legislation to support veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances has passed the Senate. The package includes their Toxic Exposure Training Act, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care personnel with improved education and training to identify, treat, and assess the impact of illnesses related to toxic exposures.
“When we ask our young men and women to defend our nation, we make a promise to be there for them when they return home. That is why I have fought for years to ensure our veterans and servicemembers exposed to burn pits receive the care and benefits they need,” said Klobuchar. “The Senate’s passage of this bipartisan package, which includes my legislation with Senator Crapo to help the VA improve training for personnel working with those who have been exposed to toxic substances, is a big step forward as we continue our efforts to get veterans and servicemembers the care they’ve earned. Now that it has passed the Senate, we are one step closer to it being signed into law.”
“The Senate’s passage of the Toxic Exposure Training Act sends a direct message to veterans that they should not have to miss or face gaps in health care coverage they have rightfully and bravely earned because of a lack of training and education necessary to fully understand the risks of toxic exposure in combat operations,” said Crapo. “Better training and education resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs will reduce claims processing times, minimize the burden of proof on the veteran, deliver quicker benefits and ensure our nation’s heroes receive the best medical care possible.”
The bipartisan package of legislation – the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act – will also make all troops eligible for VA health care for 10 years after separation, which is currently set at five years; create a new one-year open enrollment period for younger veterans whose eligibility has already expired; and mandate toxic exposure questionnaires for patients during VA medical visits.
Klobuchar has been a leader in advocating for veterans and servicemembers exposed to toxic substances.
Last March, alongside Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Klobuchar reintroduced the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act, bipartisan legislation that would reform and improve how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA.
In January of 2021, a provision based on the bipartisan Pandemic Care for Burn Pits Exposure Act led by Klobuchar and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The provision improves the care that veterans who were previously exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances receive during the coronavirus pandemic. By requiring medical professionals to ask whether veterans who test positive for a virus designated by the federal government as a pandemic if they were previously exposed to burn pits, this provision will help ensure that they receive proper care and attention to their medical needs.
In December 2019, Klobuchar’s bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Burn Pits Accountability Act requires members of the Armed Forces to be evaluated for exposure to toxic airborne chemicals during routine health exams and directs the Secretary of Defense to record and share whether servicemembers were based or stationed near an open burn pit, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs). Members will also be enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they choose to opt out, if they were exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near an open burn pit.
In September 2018, provisions based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act led by Klobuchar and Tillis was signed into law as part of the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, and created the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence within the VA focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
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