U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18) and Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) introduced the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act to improve the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tracks burn pit exposure. This legislation would require the VA to document, track, notify Congress of all cases of burn pit exposure reported by veterans to the VA.
“There’s no doubt that burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation. Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing horrible health effects and are dying as a result,” Rep. Mast said. “We’ve made progress, but much more must be done, which is why we need this bill to track exposure to burn pits so exposed veterans can get the care they need.”
This legislation builds on Reps. Mast and Gabbard’s Burn Pits Accountability Act, which was passed as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in December 2019. However, currently the registry is voluntary for veterans and many are unaware of it. The Burn Pits Transparency Act will close that gap by ensuring all veterans that discuss burn pit exposure with their VA healthcare provider are aware of the registry and their opportunity to be included.
“Millions of our brothers and sisters in uniform have been exposed to the toxic chemicals released from toxic burn pits and are suffering and dying without treatment. This is an egregious failure of our nation to those who serve. It is too late for some, but more are suffering and more need help. While there has been some progress on this front in the Defense Department and VA, more must be done,” Rep. Gabbard said. “Our veterans deserve care, compensation, and disability benefits. Every day we lose more of our brothers and sisters, like Heath, to the toxic scars they endured as part of their service to and sacrifice for our nation. This is the Agent Orange of our post-9/11 generation and we can’t be slow to act in the same way our nation failed our Vietnam veterans. They deserve better. Their families deserve better. Congress must pass this bill today.”
Specifically, the Burn Pit Transparency Act would:
- Require the Secretary of Veteran Affairs (VA) to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress of these cases quarterly;
- Require the VA to submit a biannual report to Congress identifying how many veterans complain of burn pit exposure, how many make disability claims and what the outcome of those claims are, a comprehensive list of conditions burn pit exposed veterans have, and the location of burn pits; and
- Require healthcare providers to inform a veteran who mentions “burn pits” about the existing Burn Pit Registry so they have knowledge of the Registry and can register themselves.
Senators Sherrod Brown (OH) and Rob Portman (OH) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
The legislation can be found HERE.