Tester Hears 2022 Legislative Priorities from Disabled American Veterans

Chairman underscored his commitment to delivering comprehensive toxic exposure reform in annual hearing with leading Veterans Service Organization

Chairman Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today oversaw a joint Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees hearing on the legislative priorities of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

During the hearing, Tester emphasized his commitment to delivering toxic exposure reform through a bipartisan, three-phased approach that will provide comprehensive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits to toxic-exposed veterans across the nation, starting with his Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act.

Underscoring the importance of getting the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act across the finish line, Chairman Tester asked: “Commander Marshall, can you tell me what the expansion of toxic-exposure health care would mean for your Post-9/11 members?”

“It would mean that they would receive the care that they are entitled and have earned, Mr. Chairman,” replied DAV National Commander Andrew Marshall. “They would be better off, and it would possibly save lives and families.”

“We know there’s an estimated 3.5 million veterans that have been exposed to burn pits, even more that have been exposed to other exposures-Agent Orange, radiation, and contaminated water,” continued DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “Many are struggling now without access to these benefits, so it’s time now to make the decision and take care of them.”

The Committees heard from Commander Marshall, who highlighted DAV’s support for bolstering access for veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention programs, reforming the claims process for conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST), ensuring disabled veterans and their families’ access to caregivers benefits, and taking action to address a legacy of injuries and illnesses caused by toxic exposures.

In his continued push to provide toxic-exposed veterans the relief they deserve, Tester’s Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act cleared the Senate last month with unanimous support. This bipartisan legislation 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.

As Chairman, Tester renewed his effort this Congress to better support survivors of MST through the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act-bipartisan, bicameral legislation to improve MST survivors’ access to care and benefits. He’s also leading the push to bolster critical mental health resources for veterans in crisis through his bipartisan Revising and Expediting Actions for the Crisis Hotline (REACH) for Veterans Act and Post-9/11 Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.

Tester’s opening can be found HERE.

Tester’s Q&A can be found HERE.