Senate introduces Veterans Care Bill

The author of the bill, a member of the House of Representatives. Mark Takano (State of California) The statement said the House of Representatives will re-vote the measure it passed in March next week. Biden, who after the campaign pushed for recognizing the health risks associated with burning pits, is expected to quickly sign the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the law will increase federal spending by more than $300 billion over 10 years. This drew objection from groups such as the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which said it supported wider coverage but that this should be offset by other spending cuts.

The US military stopped using incinerators at bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere nearly a decade ago, but it estimates that at least 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to enough toxic fumes to cause breathing problems and some types of cancer. But even with this recognition, the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to deny most disability claims related to exposure to the fire pit.

Between 2007 and 2020, 12,582 veterans reported a condition related to their exposure to a burn pit, Virginia Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Procedures Lauryn Carson said. told members of the House of Representatives in September 2020. The agency approved 2,828 requirements, or approximately 20 percent of those requirements.

A VA spokesman pointed to a POLITICO statement by VA Secretary Denis McDonough last month, where he compared the impact of the law to the Agent Orange Act of 1991, which extended coverage to more than 2 million Vietnam War veterans exposed to the dangerous toxin.

“We support the expansion of access to medical care for veterans under the PACT Act and will work to ensure that expanding eligibility for medical care does not delay or disrupt treatment for those veterans who are already receiving medical care from veterans.” McDonough. said.

Claims are expected to rise with new legislation that requires the VA to admit that a dozen types of cancer, chronic lung disease, asthma, emphysema, and a host of other respiratory conditions can be linked to exposure to burn pits. . The measure would also require veterans’ service providers to include toxic exposure data on patient questionnaires, which could result in new patients not knowing that their condition may be related to the pits.

“Toxic exposure affects countless veterans; some don’t even know it yet,” said Jan Birch, America’s Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Liaison Officer. The bill “will remove the burden of proof from veterans and ensure that 80 percent of veterans who were previously denied eligibility now enjoy the benefits they have earned,” she added.

The VA has struggled to reduce veterans’ waiting times for existing benefits. Military personnel wait an average of 100 days for benefits; over 250,000 are waiting longer.

The long-term delay in benefits has fueled a technology pilot launched in January to reduce waiting times by automating some processes and eliminating steps such as unnecessary doctor visits. For now, the pilot program is focused on monitoring high blood pressure.

Rob Reynolds, Virginia state official leading the project, told POLITICO earlier this year this helps judges using this type of technology resolve cases in an average of 21 days. The VA plans to expand the program to other health conditions such as asthma, which may coincide with efforts to expand coverage of burn pits.

Passing legislation is just the beginning, Senator. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said on the Senate floor. “There’s a lot of work left to do and the fact is that the VA faces significant challenges as it moves forward to help these veterans.”

Republican Sens. Richard Burr as well as Tom Tillis North Carolina, Mike Rounds as well as John Thune South Dakota, Richard Shelby as well as Tommy Tuberville Alabama, Mike Lee as well as Mitt Romney Utah, Rand Paul Kentucky, James Lankford Oklahoma, Cynthia Lummis Wyoming and Mike Crapo as well as James Rish Idaho voted against the bill.