Armed Forces News

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments would have to provide more help to service members who became sick because of exposure to toxins released from burn pits in combat theaters, should a bill now pending before Congress become law.
The measure, H.R. 5671, would:
* Require the Defense Department (DoD) to keep record of service members who have been stationed near places where they may have been exposed to toxic airborne chemicals. The list should include anyone whose name appears on the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPE) and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA).
* Anyone whose name appears on those lists should be enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Pit Registry, unless they choose not to be.
* The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD should share information about personnel appearing on the lists.
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Brian Mast, R-Ga., both of whom are veterans who served in combat theaters since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, sponsored the legislation.
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, trash and human waste were often burned in open air pits. I think it’s quickly becoming clear that these burn pits are emerging as the Agent Orange of my generation,” said Mast.
“This exposure is now proving to result in debilitating and deadly illnesses for many,” Gabbard said. “Our legislation is an urgent and critical step toward getting [veterans] the care they need and deserve.”
Statistics show that at least 140,000 current and former service members probably have been exposed to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals in the past 30 years. Such exposures could lead to neurological disorders, certain rare cancers, lung diseases, and other ailments.
Numerous veterans’ service organizations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans of America (IIAV), have spoken in support of the bill.