Rep. Gabbard’s Burn Pits Legislation Included in Major Defense Authorization Bill

June 5, 2019, 9:00 AM HST (Updated June 5, 2019, 8:19 AM)
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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (Hawai‘i-02) legislation, the Burn Pits Accountability Act (HR 663) was passed on June 4, 2019, as part of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel’s mark of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Burn Pits Accountability Act (HR 663), which she introduced earlier this year with Rep. Brian Mast (Florida-18), would require the Department of Defense to evaluate and track the exposure of US service members and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. Currently, the Burn Pits Accountability Act has 180 bipartisan cosponsors.

“Over 3.7 million of my brothers and sisters in uniform have been exposed to toxic burn pits during multiple deployments to the Middle East since 9/11 alone. Passing our legislation will require the military to track and accurately report every service members’ exposure to burn pits so that we can make sure they get the treatment and care that they need and deserve,” said Rep. Gabbard. “Exposure to toxic burn pits is the Agent Orange of my generation—we cannot allow our nation to leave them behind.”

“For too long, the federal government has sat quietly as thousands of service members exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered terrible health effects at a young age,” said Rep. Mast. “But today we took a critical step in the right direction to combat what has become Agent Orange of my generation, and I’m committed to continuing this fight to ensure every service member has access to the care they’ve earned.”

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Rep. Gabbard introduced HR 663, the Burn Pits Accountability Act, earlier this year with Rep. Mast. It would require the Secretary of Defense to record whether service members have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs). It would enroll any service member who meets these criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out. And, it would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs and PDHAs.

Rep. Gabbard has previously introduced legislation and fought for its passage is supported by over two dozen service member organizations. In May 2019, she wrote about the ongoing fight to track and report burn pit exposure so that veterans can get the care they need, urging Congress not to repeat the mistakes of our nation’s slow response to Agent Orange exposure.

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