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Sen. Thom Tillis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for Pentagon funding and research of burn bit exposure. More than 100,000 military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have signed up for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) burn pit exposure registry. In a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tillis, Klobuchar, and a group of senators requested that burn pit exposure be included as a congressionally directed Department of Defense research topic and that robust funding for research on burn pit exposure and related illnesses be provided in the FY 2018 defense appropriations bill.

“More than 100,000 military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have signed up for the VA’ s burn pit exposure registry. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders,” the senators wrote. “In response to these health effects, we introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act to create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits. In addition to creating a center of excellence, more research and treatment options should be developed through the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. We respectfully request that burn pit exposure be included as a congressionally directed topic area and that robust funding in the FY 2018 defense appropriations bill is provided to fund research on burn pit exposure and related illnesses.”

In addition to Tillis and Klobuchar, the letter was also signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Klobuchar and Tillis have led Senate efforts to support our troops when they return home and improve healthcare for our nation’s servicemembers and veterans. In February, the lawmakers introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. The bipartisan bill would create a center of excellence within the VA to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. Klobuchar and Tillis also introduced this legislation in the last Congress.

The full text of the senators’ letter is below:

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairmen Leahy and Durbin:

As the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense considers appropriations for the 2018 fiscal year (FY 2018), we respectfully ask that you ensure burn pit exposure is included in the FY 2018 Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs and provide robust funding for the treatment and research of burn pit exposure.

More than 100,000 military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have signed up for the VA’ s burn pit exposure registry. These veterans were exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances that the smoke produced from the burning of waste on military bases. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed servicemembers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.

In response to these health effects, we introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act to create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits. In addition to creating a center of excellence, more research and treatment options should be developed through the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. We respectfully request that burn pit exposure be included as a congressionally directed topic area and that robust funding in the FY 2018 defense appropriations bill is provided to fund research on burn pit exposure and related illnesses.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

 

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