What They Are Saying: Veterans Service Organizations Praise Tester, Moran’s Landmark Bill to Provide Health Care for Post-9/11 Toxic-Exposed Veterans

Chairman and Ranking Member’s bipartisan Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act heads to Senate floor after gaining unanimous support in Committee

The nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations are praising landmark legislation introduced by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to offer Post-9/11 combat veterans, including those suffering from conditions caused by toxic exposures, access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. Tester and Moran led the Committee yesterday in unanimous passage of their bipartisan Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act.

Veterans Service Organizations threw their support behind the Senators’ new legislation and toxic exposure effort:

“Oftentimes, combat veterans exposed to burn pits have no alternatives for health care beyond the five-years of guaranteed coverage they receive through VA, yet many illnesses and diseases like cancer take much longer to develop,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Deputy National Legislative Director Shane Liermann. “The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act would extend the enrollment period to 10 years after service, lengthening their coverage through VA and potentially leading to swifter detection and treatment for related conditions. We thank Senators Tester and Moran for taking this step in addressing health care access for burn pit exposed veterans, and we look forward to more legislative actions to address the full and complex puzzle of toxic exposures.”

“The VFW supports the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act which would extend VA health care eligibility for combat veterans from five to ten years after separation from the military,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Legislative Director Pat Murray. “The bill would also require VA to screen veterans regarding their exposures during service, provide training on toxic exposures to VA health care providers and disability claims processors, and would require additional reporting and tracking of veteran health conditions due to toxic exposures. This legislation is a step in the right direction to take care of this group of veterans and we look forward to additional expansions of health care and benefits to cover all toxic exposed veterans.”

“One of the pressing needs of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during service is guaranteed access to VA health care,” said Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jose Ramos. “Under current law, all previously deployed veterans can access care within five years of separation without issue. However, illnesses related to toxic exposure often present well after this small window of time and expose a critical gap in care availability. We thank Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran for introducing the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act to extend this care access period to 10 years, a first step to ensuring veterans have access to health care. We emphasize that there is still much more work to be done, and we look forward to working with the Committee to support the passage of the comprehensive toxic exposure solutions contained in the COST of War Act before the end of the 117th Congress which does not have a time limit to access VA care.”

“Military toxic exposures, like from burn pits, continue to be the cause of too much pain and suffering for our nation’s veterans,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO Jeremy Butler. “IAVA strongly supports the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act as it would aid Post 9/11 veterans exposed to toxins during service by expanding eligibility for healthcare at VA, increasing screening for toxic exposure related illnesses, providing critical training for VA employees on toxic exposures, and so much more. We thank Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran for introducing this legislation and look forward to continuing working with the Senators to ensure that veterans suffering due to their time in the military receive the healthcare and benefits that they earned by their selfless service.”

“The American Legion is proud to support the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act which eases the burden on veterans navigating the claims filing process by giving all post-9/11 veterans, in any theater of combat operations after November 1998, access to VA healthcare by granting Priority Group 6 eligibility,” said The American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard. “Although VA is working to improve the presumptive process, unfortunately time is running out for some. On behalf of the 1.8 million dues paying members of The American Legion, we thank Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran for their continued leadership on this issue.”

“MOAA supports the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act and the expanded health care access, medical screenings, research, and training this bill offers,” said Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President and CEO Lieutenant General Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “Our burn pit exposed veterans have been waiting far too long to get their health care needs met. We applaud Senators Tester and Moran for working together on this legislation and urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill.”

As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senators Tester and Moran have been dedicated to identifying a path forward for outstanding toxic exposure issues, and remain committed to following through on the country’s promise to provide timely care and benefits to all generations of exposed veterans. The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act is the first of a three-step approach to expand access to health care for toxic-exposed veterans, establish a new process through which VA will determine future presumptive conditions, and provide overdue benefits to thousands of toxic-exposed veterans who have been long-ignored or forgotten.

A one-pager on the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act can be found HERE.