Toxic exposure legislation

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U.S. Air Force fire protection specialists from the New Jersey Air National Guard douse a fire with foam during a training exercise at the Military Sealift Command Training Center East in Freehold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, firefighting foams can be a major source of groundwater contamination at military bases where firefighting training occurs. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht/Air National Guard)

A pair of bills addressing the long-lasting and lethal health effects of toxic exposures are making progress in Congress. Both DAV-supported pieces of legislation would extend some much-needed relief to multiple generations of veterans.

The Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021 would address a wide range of exposures, including Agent Orange, burn pits, radiation, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) water contamination and the toxins at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base. The sweeping bill would expand health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and establish a working group and review commission to advise the VA secretary on presumptive diseases related to toxic exposure.

Additionally, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted to send the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act to a full floor vote in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan package, H.R. 3967, includes provisions that would help millions of veterans exposed to burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DAV was the first charity to raise the issue of burn pits in 2007. Since then, DAV has continued to lead on legislative efforts and, in 2014, initiated a pilot for VA’s Burn Pit Registry, which is now law.