Urgent Burn Pits Legislation Re-Introduced in 116th Congress
January 17, 2019 (Washington, DC) — Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading post-9/11 veterans empowerment organization, applauds the bipartisan leadership of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Brian Mast (R-FL) for re-introducing the Burn Pits Accountability Act with over 100 bipartisan original cosponsors, landmark legislation to require the Department of Defense to account for servicemembers’ exposure to airborne toxins while deployed.
“Burn pits are finally becoming a national priority. Our members see burn pits as a critical, urgent and growing issue that will impact an entire generation. 80% report that they were exposed to burn pits during their combat deployments and 63% report associated symptoms already,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “We applaud Sen. Klobuchar, Sen. Sullivan, Reps. Gabbard and Mast for answering IAVA’s call and stepping up to lead in the new year on burn pits. As post-9/11 veterans themselves, Sen. Sullivan, Reps. Gabbard and Mast know the importance and scope of this issue first-hand from their own time in combat. Burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation. Today, IAVA is calling on all Members of the new Congress to sign on to this bill immediately and to pass it as soon as possible. And we call on President Trump to lend his support as well. This can be an early bipartisan legislative win for all parties–and most of all for millions of veterans nationwide.”
This bipartisan legislation, first introduced last year by this same bipartisan team, quickly gained more than 160 cosponsors from both parties and support from 25 other VSOs. It also garnered the support of many leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus (Ret.), and generated significant media attention, including a feature this week on NPR’s Morning Edition.
The VA estimates 3.5 million veterans are eligible to register in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which tracks exposures to airborne toxins. However, because enrollment is voluntary, the Registry is not well-known. It has only received 165,000 responses since going live in 2014. Encouragingly, the number enrolled has risen by approximately 25,000 just in the last six months since IAVA launched our nationwide burn pit campaign.
“Many veterans who I have served with are now becoming sick with cancers and respiratory illnesses,” said IAVA Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant. “I often wonder how my own health will continue to be affected in the years to come. As the daughter of Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, I’ve observed how toxic exposures can plague you for decades long after the wars we fight in. This legislation will dramatically increase the quantity and quality of research and data about these exposures and how they have impacted our servicemembers.”
Support for injuries from burn pits and other toxic exposures is one of IAVA’s Big 6 Advocacy priorities for 2019, focused on the Post-9/11 generation of veterans, and veterans of all eras. More details are available on our Big 6 Advocacy Priorities and in the IAVA Policy Agenda.
To learn more about IAVA’s work and policy priorities for the 116th Congress, to include the final report from our annual Member Survey, join us at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC on January 30th. We invite old and new veteran Members of Congress– aka “the Camouflage Wave,” as well as the public for our deep dive into the issues most pressing to the post-9/11 generation. To RSVP and find out more, check here.
And you can be an advocate and join us for one of our Storm the Hill weeks in 2019. Check out here to learn more and apply!