Thursday, February 9, 2017

Senators Klobuchar and Tillis Introduce a Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits

The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. S.319 

Last year, Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits. The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. Last year, Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits.

“With an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure, it’s clear that we can’t afford to wait,” said Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan bill ‎helps to move us in the right direction by dedicating staff and resources to address the health conditions related to the exposure of burn pits. We need to do right by our veterans and ensure they receive the care and support they need.”

“Many of our brave men and women in uniform were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have an obligation to care for them,” said Tillis. “This bipartisan bill is the beginning of that commitment, providing resources to the VA to study the health effects caused by the burn pits and to provide treatment to veterans who became sick after exposure. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our veterans have the care they need and deserve.”

The burning of waste on military bases exposed many servicemembers to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed soldiers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.

Original co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Klobuchar and Tillis also introduced this legislation in the last Congress. 

Klobuchar has worked in a bipartisan manner to modernize G.I. Bill benefits for our troops and to strengthen funding veterans’ health care.

Last year, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, bipartisan legislation she led with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to improve the Veteran Suicide Crisis Line (VCL) was signed into law by the president. In December, Klobuchar and Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) bipartisan bill to establish a patient self-scheduling appointment system at Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities was signed into law by the president. The bipartisan Faster Care for Veterans Act directs the Secretary of the VA to commence a pilot program under which veterans could use the internet to schedule and confirm appointments for health care at VA medical facilities.

Exposed individuals and their families brought a lawsuit against KBR for its allegedly improper use of the burn pits and for failing to warn veterans and civilians of the hazards of being exposed.

The cases allege that prolonged exposure to the burn pits' smoke, ash and fumes, and improper water treatment, may have resulted in chronic diseases, risk of future illness and death. The lawsuit alleges that KBR burned large amounts of unsorted waste, including hazardous waste, medical waste, and human waste, at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case, In re KBR Inc, Burn Pit Litigation, is a consolidated action, and is venued in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, before Judge Roger W. Titus.

The Court has rescheduled the evidentiary hearing to March 9 and 10, 2017. At that time the Court will determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.

Click here to REQUEST more information about The Burn Pit Lawsuit now.

Click here to read a copy of the Second Amended Case Management Order on Jurisdictional Discovery (Document 399) 04/26/2016