According to a measure filed by Sens. Jon Tester and Jerry Moran on Tuesday, combat veterans from the post-9/11 period might be the first to get extended health treatment for chemical exposure.
Both Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, and Moran, a Republican senator from Kansas, have stated that their Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act is the first step in a three-step strategy to address toxic exposure over generations of conflict the health consequences for the veteran community.
The senator said that “without action, post-9/11 veterans will suffer in the same way as Vietnam veterans did, and every year, more toxic exposure warriors will pay the ultimate price while waiting for the care they need.” “We’re taking advantage of an imminent opportunity to push legislation that will link millions of burn-pit veterans with the treatment they need and the care they can’t wait for any longer,” says Sen. John McCain.
Because efforts to move the Compensation and Overdue Support for Troops Act have been unsuccessful thus far, Tester and Moran have divided their legislation into several components in the hopes of passing them one at a time. The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans program is the initial stage in that process. One of the numerous moving components within the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to address toxic exposure among veterans.
Tester, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the effort includes an endeavor to offer more access to health treatment for veterans who have been exposed to airborne harmful compounds, such as those emitted by fire pits, among other things. The second phase would develop a new and open approach that would enable the VA to identify future presumptive conditions objectively and transparently.
ACCORDING TO TESTER, the VA is unable to provide treatment to one-third of the 3.5 million post-9/11 combat veterans. “A significant number of these men and women were exposed to burn pits, which is a big concern. Even though some of them may have assumed they would never need VA treatment, they are now dealing with late and emergent health care difficulties, which are often a result of toxic exposure.”
In preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, the Montana National Guard members train in Texas. (Martin Kidston / Missoula, Montana) (Photo taken from the current file)
Moran, who currently serves as the ranking member of the VA committee, said he and Tester had worked together on various issues inside the VA system, including mental health and suicide prevention. As a result, they’ve joined forces to get the first piece of legislation they’ve developed on hazardous exposure forward.
The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act, according to Moran, will be heard by the committee on Wednesday.
“We anticipate it to pass because every Republican and every Democrat member of the committee has signed on as co-sponsors of this legislation,” Moran said of the measure. “This is the first step in a long process to ensure that persons who have been exposed to harmful substances and are suffering as a consequence will get medical benefits,” said the attorney general of California.
To that end, Moran said that the VA is trying to address presumptions for benefits and experimenting with when specific inferences about exposure and its consequences would come into play in establishing a veteran’s healthcare requirements.
According to Moran, the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot perform what the statute enables in terms of medical benefits under the terms of the legislation. According to the VA, “they do have the capacity to add presumptions, and they are now in the process of pushing ahead in that respect.”