WASHINGTON – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously approved landmark legislation championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to help meet the needs of veterans suffering from conditions caused by toxic exposure. This legislation will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Approximately 3.5 million Post-9/11 combat veterans may have experienced some level of exposure to burn pits during their service—many of whom are living with undiagnosed illnesses linked to military toxic exposures—and nearly one-third of those veterans are currently unable to access VA care. Among its many provisions, the bipartisan Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act would:
- Expand the period of health care eligibility for combat veterans who served after September 11, 2001 from five years following discharge to ten years;
- Provide a one-year open enrollment period for any Post-9/11 combat veterans who are outside their 10-year window;
- Establish an outreach plan to contact veterans who did not enroll during their initial period of enhanced eligibility;
- Direct VA to incorporate a clinical screening regarding a veteran’s potential exposures and symptoms commonly associated with toxic substances;
- Mandate toxic exposure related education and training for health care and benefits personnel at VA; and
- Strengthen federal research on toxic exposures.
“The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act is an important step to delivering the specialized care veterans exposed to burn pits deserve. The bipartisan support for this legislation is critical as we continue to build momentum in Congress toward ensuring they have access to the treatment and services they have earned,” Boozman said.
The legislation also requires the VA to conduct a study determining trends in different cancers within the veteran community. This study will build off Boozman’s provision in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act to examine incidence of breast cancer among active duty servicemembers.
The legislation has the support of the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations, including Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, The American Legion and Military Officers Association of America.