Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance & Memorial Affairs, and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the Co-Chair of the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, released the following statements after they introduced H.R. 8506, the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020, last week to improve access to care and benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances in the military. The bill is a companion to S. 4393, which is sponsored by Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
“This bill would confront the potential health impacts of toxic exposures head on and make it easier for veterans to receive the care and benefits they need to heal after being exposed to burn pits or other airborne hazards while serving our country,” said Ranking Member Roe. “I am proud to join my good friends, Rep. Bilirakis, Rep. Bost, and Dr. Wenstrup in introducing this important legislation to cut through red tape and expand needed support for the men and women who have served.”
“It is not a coincidence that so many of the exposed veterans are all suffering from the same diseases. We saw similar patterns with veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange in earlier wars. Sadly, many of those veterans died while there was no process at the VA to provide them with the help they needed. Burn pit toxin exposure is the Agent Orange of this generation. It is a moral imperative that we learn from the mistakes in the way Agent Orange was handled,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “These veterans that are suffering can’t wait any longer. We can’t change the fact that they were exposed and are sick, but we have the power to get them the help they need. Too often we see bureaucracy get in the way of doing the right thing for our heroes; this can’t be one of those times. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan, bicameral initiative, and I will not stop fighting on their behalf until they get the benefits and medical treatment they deserve.”
“Our nation’s veterans shouldn’t be met with a wall of bureaucratic red tape when they seek medical care for injuries sustained during their service,” said Rep. Bost. “While symptoms of burn pit exposure may lay dormant years after a veteran returns home, we still have a duty to ensure they receive the highest quality care and benefits. This vitally important legislation will allow these veterans to access the care and benefits they need as well as advance scientific research so that we can better understand the impact on future generations of servicemembers who may have been exposed to these toxic chemicals. This legislation also creates a pathway for the Department to follow in the future when the Secretary must decide whether to create a presumption for compensation benefits, so that Congress and the VA can act swiftly and get veterans what they deserve.”
“Our men and women in uniform do what is asked of them in service to our nation, which can unfortunately result in personal harm. We have an obligation to take care of our veterans, especially when they experience long-term health consequences as a result of their service as we continue to see with those exposed to burn bits and other toxic exposures,” said Rep. Wenstrup. “As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, I’m proud to join my friends, Dr. Roe, Rep. Bilirakis, and Rep. Bost, in introducing this important legislation.”
To learn more about the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020, click here.