Comprehensive legislation includes Klobuchar’s bipartisan bill to improve medical care for toxic-exposed veterans
Klobuchar has long been a leader in advocating for veterans and servicemembers exposed to toxic substances
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced the Senate passage of the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, historic legislation that will deliver comprehensive relief to all generations of toxic-exposed veterans for the first time in our nation’s history. The legislation includes Klobuchar and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)’s Toxic Exposure Training Act, a bipartisan bill to improve education and training for Department of Veterans Affairs health care personnel to treat illnesses related to exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances.
“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 Klobuchar. “Today we have come one step closer to delivering on that promise by passing a historic bill to meet both immediate and future needs of servicemembers, veterans, and their families. I am particularly glad that this historic legislation includes a bipartisan bill I’ve long led that ensures veterans exposed to toxic substances, including burn pits, receive the medical care and benefits they deserve. This passage marks important progress in getting our veterans and servicemembers the care they’ve earned and I will continue working to move these efforts forward.”
Klobuchar and Crapo’s Toxic Exposure Training Act 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 exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances. It 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.
In addition to the Toxic Exposure Training Act, this historic package includes provisions from the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act, bipartisan legislation Klobuchar introduced alongside Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) to reform and improve how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA.
Klobuchar has been a leader in advocating for veterans and servicemembers exposed to toxic substances.
In October 2021, Klobuchar and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) sent a bipartisan letter to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs expressing concern about how toxic burn pit exposure affects women’s health, including the potential increased risk of breast cancer. The letter encouraged the departments to work together to conduct research into the relationship between toxic exposure during deployment and breast cancer in post-9/11 servicemembers and veterans as well as make sure veterans are aware of the resources that are available to them so they can get the care they need.
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. It will require 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, which 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, and they must include 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 if they were exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, unless they choose to opt out.
In September 2018, provisions based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act led by Klobuchar and Tillis were signed into law as part of the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. These provisions – the first legislative actions taken to address this issue – created the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence within the VA, which is focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
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