November 03, 2011

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Burn Pit Legislation to Support Veterans

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today introduced a bill to create a national registry of veterans impacted by burn pits to help identify and take better care of those affected. Joining them as co-sponsors of the legislation are Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

As early as 2002, U.S. military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials. The U.S. Department of Defense made frequent use of burn pits at a number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan despite concerns about air pollution.

The Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 creates a similar registry to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry. The establishment of an open burn pit registry will help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determine to what extent air pollution, caused by open air burn pits, has led to medical diseases among service members. The legislation will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans.

"Open Air Burn pits were widely used at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn organic materials, chemicals, unspent fuel and other dangerous waste. The resulting exposure has in some cases led to serious health repercussions for many returning troops and veterans," said Tom Udall (N.M.). "With this registry, we can ensure that those who have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes while serving overseas are better informed about the effects so that they can be properly treated."

"Establishing this registry will help us understand the consequences of using open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Corker. "Our men and women in uniform who served in close proximity to these pits certainly deserve to understand how that service may have impacted their health and what resources may be available to them."

"This registry will help collect the facts needed to find the connections between burn pit exposure and health problems affecting our servicemen and women," Bingaman said. "I am glad to join Senators Udall and Corker in introducing this important bill."

"Toxic burn pits have caused immeasurable harm to our brave men and women in uniform, and this bill will ensure that the health care of those soldiers impacted is provided for," Schumer said. "After every war, America has stepped up to care for our soldiers, and creating a national burn pit registry will ensure our government continues in that great tradition for this generation of soldiers."

"We know that burn pits are hazardous and that our service members inhaled toxic fumes," said Nelson. "That's why creating a registry is a key step towards ensuring those affected are properly cared for."

"We all know that the men and women of our Armed Services risk their very lives to protect us, but what some might not realize is that many are also exposed to toxins and hazardous materials that could affect their lifelong health, and such veterans deserve all the medical help they need when they get home," Alexander said.

"The toxic chemicals produced by open burn pits created a serious health risk for our brave men and women serving overseas. My office has worked with one victim from St. Louis and has seen the very real challenges veterans harmed by burn pits face, which is why this legislation is so important. Just because an illness is new or complex does not mean we can let those veterans who are suffering, very likely because of their burn pit exposure, slip through the cracks. We owe our full support to those who have served and sacrificed, especially when they become sick as a result of their service," McCaskill said.

"It has become clear that in some cases the use of burn pits in combat zones has caused some serious health impacts for recent veterans," Mark Udall (Colo.) said. "Because we want to ensure the best health for our nation's heroes, I am making it a priority to identify and help those who have been affected. The Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 will help create a database of those who have been exposed to burn pits and improve communication about the important health services that are available to them."

The Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 will:

  • Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service;
  • Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
  • Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry;
  • Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure;
  • Require an assessment and report to Congress by an independent scientific organization.

The Open Burn Pit Registry Act is supported by a variety of veterans groups including: Burn Pits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Association of the U.S. Navy and The Retired Enlisted Association.

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.).