Reps. Ryan, Mast & Sens. Brown, Portman Reintroduce Legislation to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits
Washington, DC – Representatives Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Brian Mast (FL-18) today joined with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to reintroduce legislation to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits. The bicameral, bipartisan bill, the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who passed away last year and was exposed to burn pits while deployed.
“I was proud to introduce the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act today. The bill is named in honor of an Ohio Army National Guard Soldier frequently exposed to burn pits who died last year at only 39 after waging a three-year battle against lung cancer. The VA can and must do better in identifying and supporting veterans exposed to burn pits as well as providing them the care and benefits they have earned and so deeply deserve,” said Rep. Ryan.
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, trash and human waste were often burned in open air pits. These burn pits are emerging as the Agent Orange of my generation. Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing horrible health effects and are dying as a result," said Rep. Mast. "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.”
“This is a cost of going to war that we have to take responsibility for as a country. On the Vets Committee, we have a long history of putting party politics aside to work on behalf of the people who served this country, and I’m hopeful we can make progress on this bill, to take steps to help connect the dots between exposure to burn pits and the illnesses that so many of our veterans have developed,” said Sen. Brown.
“We owe our servicemembers a great debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan measure requiring VA to submit regular reports on veterans exposed to burn pits. The reports will provide valuable data on patterns of medical diagnoses and associated disability claims so we can better understand the impact of burn pits exposure and hold VA accountable for the medical treatment and benefits to which veterans may be entitled,” said Sen. Portman.
“Heath may have died but his legacy will continue through his deeds and sacrifices. He is a man who after fighting for his country in Iraq and returning safely from a war zone ended up fighting the battle of his life against the war that followed him home. Heath is at peace knowing his resolve to help other burn pit veterans will continue and it's an honor to have the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act named after him, especially since today would’ve been his 40th birthday,” said Danielle Robinson, Heath’s widow.
Specifically, the lawmakers’ bill would:
- Require VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress of the case and several data points related to the veteran’s case and exposure to burn pits;
- Require VA to submit a biannual report to Congress identifying how many veterans report burn pit exposure, how many make disability claims and what the outcome of those claims are, a comprehensive list of conditions reported by burn pit exposed veterans, the location of burn pits, and whether veterans have died; and
- 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.