The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed bipartisan legislation spearheaded by Sens. Jon Tester and Jerry Moran, one day after they offered a joint press conference lauding the bill’s benefits to veterans suffering from toxic exposure.
The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act represents the first in a three-step approach to expand access to health care for post-911 combat veterans with toxic exposure.
Future steps will work to establish a new process through which VA will determine presumptive conditions, and provide overdue benefits to thousands of toxic-exposed veterans who have been long-ignored or forgotten.
Tester called Wednesday’s passage from committee a critical step forward.
“This bill will connect more Post-911 veterans with the VA care they’ve earned to treat seen and unseen wounds of war, while moving the ball forward on addressing toxic exposure in the comprehensive way our veterans deserve,” Tester said. “This is a necessary step in doing right by our nation’s veterans.”
Tester was in Missoula last Friday to celebrate the opening of a new 60,000 square foot, $8 million outpatient clinic. That project took years of congressional pushing and several visits from VA secretaries over the years.
While in Missoula, Tester said his next focus would turn to passing legislation related to toxic exposure. Over the years, that has included mustard gas in World War I, radiation in World War II, agent orange in Vietnam and toxic burn pits in recent wars.
“Post-9/11 veterans are the newest generation of American heroes to suffer from toxic exposures encountered during military service,” Moran said in a statement. “The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act is an important first step to make certain our veterans receive the care they need as a result of their service.”