U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is pushing legislation aimed at tracking veterans’ exposure to burn pits overseas.
“There’s no doubt that burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation,” Mast said in a Tuesday statement.
“Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing horrible health effects and are dying as a result.”
These open-air pits are used in some countries to burn garbage and human waste. The pits can emit harmful toxins affecting veterans’ lungs or even causing cancer.
Mast, a Republican, is joined on the bill by former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii in the U.S. House.
“Millions of our brothers and sisters in uniform have been exposed to the toxic chemicals released from toxic burn pits and are suffering and dying without treatment,” Gabbard said.
“This is an egregious failure of our nation to those who serve. It is too late for some, but more are suffering and more need help. While there has been some progress on this front in the Defense Department and [Department of Veterans Affairs], more must be done.”
“We’ve made progress, but much more must be done, which is why we need this bill to track exposure to burn pits so exposed veterans can get the care they need,” Mast said.
The new bill would require the VA to track cases and brief Congress on numbers each quarter. Health care providers must also inform veterans of the registry should they complain of exposure.
The proposed registry would help assess the extent of the problem and allow resources to be allocated to help veterans.
“Our veterans deserve care, compensation, and disability benefits,” Gabbard added.
“They deserve better. Their families deserve better. Congress must pass this bill today.”
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio are behind the Senate version of the bill.