U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18) and Tim Ryan (OH-13) introduced the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act. This legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to document, track and notify Congress of all cases of burn pit exposure reported by veterans to the VA.
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, trash and human waste were often burned in open air pits. These burn pits are emerging as the Agent Orange of my 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.
“I was proud to introduce the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act today,” Rep. Ryan said. “The bill is named in honor of an Ohio Army National Guard Soldier frequently exposed to burn pits who died last year at only 39 after waging a three-year battle against lung cancer. The VA can and must do better in identifying and supporting veterans exposed to burn pits as well as providing them the care and benefits they have earned and so deeply deserve.”
Specifically, the Burn Pit Transparency Act would:
- Require the VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress of these cases;
- 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;
- 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; and
- Enable family members to add veterans to the Burn Pit Registry after his or her death.
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (OH) and Sherrod Brown (OH) are also introducing the bill in the Senate.