Ahead of her Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee hearing on the health effects of burn pits, Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Subcommittee on Personnel, held a video press conference to discuss the path forward on her bipartisan Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act. Gillibrand’s bill passed in the House of Representatives two weeks ago as part of the Honoring our PACT Act.
“Today in my capacity as chair of the SASC Subcommittee on Personnel, I will be leading a hearing to convene experts from DoD and veterans advocates to shine a bright light on how our system has been failing our nation’s service members who have been exposed to burn pits and other toxins in the line of duty,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I am so proud that my bill, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, was included in the House’s Honoring Our PACT Act, which would finally establish a presumptive service connection for veterans exposed to burn pits and streamline the process for obtaining vital VA benefits. I remain committed to this issue and to passing my bill in the Senate so we can finally correct this abhorrent failure.”
Senator Gillibrand’s hearing is intended to conduct oversight and to receive testimony regarding the Department of Defense’s policies and procedures for providing health care to service members exposed to airborne hazards, including toxic fumes from burn pits, documenting such exposures, and providing health care and exposure information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She will address a panel of experts to discuss the health effects of exposure to airborne hazards, training for medical providers on the symptoms of and treatment for medical conditions related to airborne hazards, tracking and documentation of service members’ exposure, and medical research into the effects of exposure to airborne hazards.
Gillibrand’s Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act would remove the “burden of proof” from the veteran to provide enough evidence to establish a direct service connection between their health condition and exposure. Rather, the veteran would only need to submit documentation that they received a campaign medal associated with the Global War on Terror or the Gulf War and they suffer from a qualifying health condition. Campaign medals are awarded to members of the armed forces who deploy for military operations in a designated combat zone or geographical theater.