Provisions based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act passed the Senate and House as part of the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that their bipartisan legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The provisions, based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, were included in the Senate and House-passed Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act and would create a Center of Excellence in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
“After the Vietnam War, it took the U.S. government years to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and its devastating health effects on our soldiers. With an increasing number of servicemembers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses, we can’t make that same tragic mistake again by failing to identify the devastating health effects associated with burn pits,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will make sure we have the staff and resources to treat the health problems of our veterans exposed to burn pits, helping us do right by our veterans and help ensure they receive the care and support they need when they come home.”
“We have an obligation to care for the brave men and women in uniform who were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Tillis said. “I am proud that this legislation is finally becoming law which will begin the process of fulfilling that obligation so that we can better understand the health effects associated with exposure to burn pits and then provide the needed resources to our veterans.”
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.