WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) secured a win for veterans who face unknown health consequences as a result of burn pit exposure by requiring all potential cases to be tracked by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act included legislation co-authored by Rep. Mast. The SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to document, track and notify Congress of all cases of burn pit exposure reported by veterans to the VA.
“Burn pit exposure is the Agent Orange of my generation, but I don’t want to see my brothers and sisters in arms go through what Vietnam veterans were unjustly forced to suffer through when it came to getting the treatment they need,” Rep. Mast said. “We have to track the exposures and support those impacted so that they receive the care that they deserve. Today’s vote is a huge step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
The Honoring Our PACT Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that will expand eligibility for combat veterans who were exposed to toxic substances in “burn pits.” The bill opens up health care and benefit options for those who were exposed and streamlines related operations at Veterans Affairs to ensure veterans receive care in a timely manner.
This legislation builds on Reps. Mast and Gabbard’s Burn Pits Accountability Act, which was passed as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in December 2019. However, currently the registry is voluntary for veterans and many are unaware of it. The Burn Pits Transparency Act will close that gap by ensuring all veterans that discuss burn pit exposure with their VA healthcare provider are aware of the registry and their opportunity to be included.
Specifically, the Burn Pit Transparency Act would:
Require the VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress of these cases;
Require the VA to submit a biannual report to Congress identifying how many veterans complain of burn pit exposure, how many make disability claims and what the outcome of those claims are, a comprehensive list of conditions burn pit exposed veterans have, and the location of burn pits;
Require healthcare providers to inform a veteran who mentions “burn pits” about the existing Burn Pit Registry so they have knowledge of the Registry and can register themselves; and
Enable family members to add veterans to the Burn Pit Registry after his or her death.