WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced new bipartisan legislation to 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 exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances.
The Toxic Exposure Training Act would also require the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Compensation Service to establish and mandate an ongoing national training program. Between 2007 and 2020, about 75 percent of disability claims related to burn pit exposure were denied by the VA, which has adverse effects on veterans’ ability to treat illnesses stemming from toxic exposure.
“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,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will improve training for VA personnel to ensure veterans exposed to toxic substances receive the medical care and benefits they’ve earned.”
“Veterans should not have to miss or face gaps in health care coverage they have rightfully earned through their brave service to our country because of a lack of training and education necessary to fully understand the risks of toxic exposure in combat operations. Better training and education resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs will reduce claims processing times, minimize burden of proof on the veteran, deliver quicker benefits and ensure our nation’s heroes receive the best medical care possible,” said Senator Crapo.
Klobuchar has been a leader in advocating for veterans exposed to toxic substances. In 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 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 Senator 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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