April 09, 2021

Chairman Takano Applauds Introduction of 2 New Bills to Address Toxic Exposure

Bills from Reps. Slotkin & Ruiz align with Committee efforts to provide benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances

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Jenni Geurink | 202-819-4684


WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) praised the introduction of two new bills that align with the Committee’s efforts to comprehensively grant benefits and presumptions for all veterans exposed to toxic substances—regardless of where or when they served. Yesterday, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) introduced the bipartisan Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act with Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), which will formally recognize that veterans who served near open-air burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places were exposed to airborne hazards and toxins. Earlier this week, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) introduced the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) to streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits for burn pit and other toxic exposures. Both of these bills build on the Committee’s work to recognize toxic exposure as a cost of war and Chairman Takano’s commitment to addressing toxic exposures this Congress.


“I made addressing toxic exposure a top priority this Congress because we can’t let another 40 years go by before we give veterans who were exposed to toxic substances the benefits they’ve earned,” said Chairman Takano. “Our veterans shouldn’t have to prove that they were exposed to burn pits during their service-- that’s why Rep. Slotkin’s bipartisan Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act will remove the burden of proof from these veterans. It’s also clear that exposure to burn pits is making countless veterans sick—Rep. Ruiz’s Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act concedes this exposure and ensures that these veterans can get help now. I am proud to support these bills as the Committee works to comprehensively address toxic exposure and ensure that VA cares for all who have borne the battle.” 


“Too many veterans in Michigan and across the country need specialized care due to toxic exposure over the course of their service, and too many of them are having to fight VA to get it,” Rep. Slotkin said. “While this bill doesn’t solve the whole problem, it’s an important first step in cutting through red tape and simplifying this process for veterans trying to access the benefits and care they’re entitled to. The bill eliminates the unreasonable burden on veterans to prove that they were exposed to burn pits while serving at an installation where these practices were used. The delay in care for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam was a tragic failure, and one we can’t repeat. We make a promise to our men and women in uniform to care for them once they’ve returned home, and this bill helps us begin to keep that promise. I’m eager to work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to get this bill on the president’s desk.” 


“Our veterans cannot wait,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Service members are returning home from the battlefield only to become delayed casualties of war, dying years later from lung diseases, cancers, and autoimmune diseases caused by their exposure to toxic military burn pits. The VA and DoD cannot continue to neglect this self-inflicted wound on our veterans. That’s why I co-authored the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act with Senator Gillibrand to get our veterans the care they need right now.”


Background: Earlier this year, Chairman Takano announced that he will prioritize toxic exposure during the 117thCongress and committed to moving comprehensive legislation forward. As part of this effort, the Committee has worked to educate about the effects of toxic exposure and has spoken to several veterans living with the effects of toxic exposure like MSgt. Brian Graves & Lt. Col. (Ret.) Nate Brauner. Last week, Rep. Luria introduced the COVENANT Actto ensure that veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, East Africa, and the Philippines can access VA benefits. All of these efforts build off the monumental passage of Chairman Takano’s Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last Congress that finally granted benefits to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service off the coast of Vietnam.