Peters Cosponsors Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S Senator Gary Peters (MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, today announced he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which will help veterans suffering from respiratory ailments as a result of exposure to open burn pits during their military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits were frequently used on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn waste, including toxic items such as plastics, electronics, batteries and human waste.

“When veterans are exposed to harmful substances in service to our nation, we must ensure they can receive the necessary medical care and treatments they need when they return home,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill is an important step forward in keeping our commitment to care for our brave men and women in uniform, and will help ensure the VA has the right knowledge, equipment and training to treat veterans suffering from health conditions related to their exposure to burn pits. I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting this important legislation that will help us meet the specific needs of our newest generation of veterans.”

The bill would establish a center of excellence within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the treatment of health conditions related to burn pit exposure. Chemicals found in burn pits has been linked to a number of adverse health effects including cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, and respiratory and cardiovascular toxicity. The center of excellence would provide guidance for U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) health systems, conduct research on health conditions related to exposure, and train health professionals in treatment and rehabilitation for affected servicemembers. In 2012, the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 created a burn pit registry to track veterans’ exposure and monitor potential medical care needs, but adequate treatment is still widely unavailable.

Peters, a member of the post 9-11 Veterans Caucus, has long been an advocate for Michigan veterans. Last year, President Obama signed into law Peters’ bipartisan Fairness for Veterans amendment that helps veterans with a bad paper discharge resulting from behavior caused by PTSD to petition for an upgrade in their discharge status. An upgrade to an honorable discharge would help certain veterans access benefits earned through their service like VA home loans and educational benefits provided by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  Peters has also cosponsored legislation to provide care for Vietnam veterans and their descendants who are suffering from health complications related to exposure to Agent Orange.