Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Brian Mast’s Burn Pits Legislation Gains Momentum

June 26, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC—The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671), introduced by post 9/11 veterans Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Brian Mast (FL-18), is gaining momentum, adding 63 bipartisan congressional cosponsors and 25 endorsements from military service organizations (MSOs) and veterans service organizations (VSOs) since introduction. The bipartisan legislation would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals.

Over 140,000 servicemembers and veterans have reported exposure to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 3.7 million veterans and servicemembers are eligible to join the burn pits registry. Exposure can produce serious and potentially life-threatening health effects, including neurological disorders, rare forms of cancer, lung diseases, and more—triggering some to call the crisis the ‘Agent Orange’ of the post-9/11 generation.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus and member of the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, said: “As each day passes without action from our government, more of our service members suffer from serious if not deadly health effects from their exposure to burn pits during their deployments. We cannot repeat the horrors suffered by Vietnam veterans who fought for decades to receive care due to illnesses related to their exposure to Agent Orange. Congress must act now to honor the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women and pass the Burn Pits Accountability Act.”

"It is encouraging to see so many members of Congress join with Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Brian Mast (R-FL) to sponsor this integral piece of legislation. IAVA is grateful for Reps. Gabbard's and Mast's leadership on this issue and we call on all members of Congress to follow their lead and sign on to the Burn Pits Accountability Act," said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “It's past time for Congress to act on what could be the Agent Orange of the Post-9/11 generation. We cannot wait until burn pits and toxic exposures take even more of our brothers and sisters. The time is now: Congress must pass the Burn Pits Accountability Act."

Background: The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals by:

  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs).
  • Enrolling any servicemember who meets the above criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out.
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs, and PDHAs.

The Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) is also supported by numerous military and veterans service organizations including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America, US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Service Women’s Action Network, US Army Warrant Officer Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the US, The Retired Enlisted Association, Chief Warrant Officer Association- US Coast Guard, Air Force Sergeants Association, National Military Family Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Wounded Warrior Project, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMSUS, American Veterans, Reserve Officers Association of the United States, Air Force Women Officers Associated, and Disabled American Veterans.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also joined Reps. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) and Joaquin Castro (TX-20) in introducing the Family Member Access to Burn Pit Registry Act (H.R. 6027) to allow family members to register in the burn pits registry on behalf of a deceased servicemember.

 

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