Legislation follows last week’s passage of Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act introduced by Klobuchar and sponsored by Sullivan
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the bipartisan Burn Pit Accountability Act to examine the health effects of exposure to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals on servicemembers and veterans. The legislation, which follows last week’s successful passage of the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, would require members of the Armed Forces to be evaluated for exposure to toxic airborne chemicals during routine health exams and direct 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 exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near an open burn pit would also be enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they chose to opt out. The legislation is also cosponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“We can’t allow toxic burn pits to become this generation’s Agent Orange,” Klobuchar said. “The bipartisan Burn Pit Accountability Act will allow us to gather the information we need to monitor, evaluate and eventually treat the devastating health effects of burn pits on our servicemembers. We must do right by the brave men and women who have already sacrificed so much for our country.”
“As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees, it’s my priority to support our service members from the day they enter military service through the transition into civilian life and beyond,” Sullivan said. “I was pleased to work with Senator Klobuchar on this bipartisan legislation that would help keep our servicemembers healthy and safe by ensuring exposure to toxic airborne chemicals from burn pits is identified and studied.”
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.
“IAVA members have sounded the alarm on what may be the Agent Orange of our generation,” said IAVA Legislative Director, Tom Porter. A stunning 80% of IAVA members report that they were exposed to toxins during their combat deployments and 63% report associated symptoms already. We worked with allies to introduce the bill in the House last month, and now we are happy to express our gratitude to Sens. Klobuchar, Sullivan, and Blumenthal for their bipartisan leadership in introducing the Senate version of the Burn Pits Accountability Act to address this critical issue.”
Throughout her time in the Senate, Klobuchar has worked across the aisle to modernize G.I. Bill benefits for our troops, strengthen funding for veterans’ health care and improve mental health care for our nation’s soldiers. Last week, Klobuchar and Senator Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act passed the Senate. The bipartisan legislation 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. In April, Klobuchar and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs Oversight Enhancement Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation to increase Congressional oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in collaboration with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In February, Klobuchar and Young led a bipartisan letter urging the VA to give prompt consideration to the recommendations for improving veterans’ access to mental health services as noted in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which highlighted the substantial unmet need for mental health services for veterans who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also authored bipartisan bills on behalf of our nation’s veterans and their families to expand job training and employment opportunities, cut red tape and wait times for veterans scheduling appointments at VA Medical Facilities, and reduce veterans’ homelessness.