New bill seeks benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – The U.S. senator from Kansas has introduced legislation to ensure veterans exposed to toxic materials during military service receive the benefits they rightfully earned.

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) says he joined Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in unveiling their bipartisan Burn Veterans Health Care Act.

Senator Moran said the landmark legislation would provide post-9/11 veterans — including those suffering from conditions caused by toxic exposures such as burning fireplaces — access to Department of Veterans Affairs health care.

“Post-9/11 veterans are the new generation of American heroes to suffer from toxic exposures encountered during military service,” Moran said. “The Burn Veterans Health Care Act is an important first step in ensuring that our veterans receive the care they need following their service. I thank the entire Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for working together to craft this consequential legislation to care for our service members who put their lives and health on the line for their country.

Moran said an estimated 3.5 million post-9/11 combat veterans experienced some level of burn hearth exposure while serving. Many of these veterans live with undiagnosed illnesses linked to toxic military exposures.

According to the senators, nearly one-third of those who suffer from these conditions are currently unable to access VA health care.

“Today we took a crucial step in our bipartisan effort to benefit all veterans exposed to toxic substances across the country with the introduction of our Burn Veterans Health Care Act“, Tester said. “This historic bill will allow us to connect a generation of burning stove veterans with the care they deserve while advancing the fight against toxic exposure in the comprehensive way that our veterans deserve.Our work here has only just begun, and together we will continue to fight to provide quality care and benefits to the men and women who have been at risk protecting our country.

Among its many provisions, Moran said the bill:

  • Extend health care eligibility for veterans who served after September 11, 2001, from five years after discharge to 10 years
  • Provide a one-year open enrollment period for post-9/11 combat veterans who are outside of their 10-year window
  • Establish an outreach plan to contact veterans who did not register during their initial enhanced eligibility period
  • Ask the VA to incorporate clinical screening regarding potential exposures and symptoms commonly associated with toxic substances
  • Mandate education and training related to toxic exposure for VA health care and benefits staff
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposures

The bill was unanimously supported by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, which includes Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mike Rounds (RS.D.), Thom Tillis (RN.C.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Patty Murray (D-Wash .), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D -Arizona) and Maggie Hassan (DN.H.).

Moran said the bill also has strong support from major veterans service organizations, including Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans of Iraq and Israel. Afghanistan, the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America.

As leaders of the committee, Moran said he and Tester are dedicated to finding a way forward for outstanding toxic exposure issues and remain committed to delivering on their promise to provide timely care and benefits to all generations of veterans exposed.

Moran said the Burn Veterans Health Care Act is the first in a three-step approach to expand access to health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances, establish a new process for the VA to be able to identify suspected future conditions, and provide overdue benefits to thousands of veterans exposed to toxic substances that have long been ignored or forgotten.

To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.

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