Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Legislative Hearing to Address Toxic Exposures
Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, at the start of the Committee’s consideration of a number of bipartisan legislative proposals to address toxic exposure:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, welcome to our witnesses.
We are here to discuss one of my top priorities – caring for veterans who are suffering from toxic exposures.
Sometimes, servicemembers are exposed to danger not just from the enemy but from the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the ground they walk.
For generations, veterans have struggled getting benefits and services from V.A. for those sorts of toxic exposures.
Their stories are heartbreaking.
On several occasions, Congress has stepped in to ensure that toxic-exposed veterans get the care and compensation they are due.
We did that most recently for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans after they waited decades for their earned benefits.
Today, we will discuss several legislative proposals that would create a pathway to care and benefits so future generations of toxic-exposed veterans don’t have to wait that long.
Too often, toxic-exposed veterans are denied care and benefits because there is not enough science to determine whether their condition is linked to their time in uniform.
Establishing that connection could take years.
Some veterans don’t have that long.
They need help now.
We must find a way to support toxic-exposed veterans while V.A. and the scientific community continue their research.
To that end, some of the bills we will discuss would establish new or amend existing presumptions of exposure.
That would ease the burden on toxic exposed veterans to prove that their disability was caused by their service in order to receive benefits.
Other bills would expand access to V.A. care for toxic-exposed veterans.
My bill, H.R. 2127 – the TEAM Act - would do both.
This bill would create a consistent process within V.A. for establishing presumptions of exposure.
The TEAM Act would also allow toxic exposed veterans to enroll in the V.A. healthcare system.
There are other bills on the agenda introduced by my Republican colleagues including DAMA Subcommittee Ranking Member Nehls, Representative Zeldin, and Representative Westerman.
I am grateful to them for being leaders on this important issue and working to improve the lives of veterans and their families.
I am eager to learn more about their proposals and those of our other colleagues.
That said, most of these bills come with a heavy price tag.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and V.S.O.s to find offsets for them.
I am disappointed that V.A. did not provide cost estimates or written views on several bills.
I appreciate V.A.’s efforts to review how the Department cares for toxic-exposed veterans.
But, now is a time for action, not more talk.
I hope V.A. is prepared to provide views and cost estimates verbally today.
Finally, I would like to recognize and extend my condolences to the Minority witness, Mr. James Price, whose wife Lauren recently passed.
Lauren was dedicated to helping toxic-exposed veterans.
She was one of them.
She knew as well as anyone about the sickness and suffering that toxic exposure can cause.
Lauren was the Co-Director of Veteran Warriors.
She was a determined and fierce advocate.
She will be missed.
Her legacy lives on through her family and her contributions to her fellow veterans.
Jim is here to speak about Lauren’s experience with toxic exposures as well as his own.
Jim, thank you for being here.
There are countless veterans and families like yours who are waiting for help.
Know that I am committed to making sure that you don’t have to wait much longer.
With that, I yield back.