Senate Committee passes legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

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Ohio State Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBN) – A Senate committee passed bipartisan legislation to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act. It was reported out of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee as a part of a larger legislative package, the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021.

The legislation was named in honor of Heath Robinson, an Ohio veteran who passed away last year from exposure to burn pits.

“I’m encouraged by the bipartisan progress we are making on this important legislation. We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure. We are now one step closer to fulfilling that responsibility. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this important piece of legislation over the finish line,” said Portman.

“On the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, we have a long history of putting party politics aside to work on behalf of the people who served this country,” said Brown. “I’m hopeful we can make progress on this bill, to take steps to help connect the dots between exposure to burn pits and the illnesses that so many of our veterans have developed.”

Specifically, the senators’ bill would require VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress quarterly of data related to the veteran’s case and exposure to burn pits.

It also requires VA to submit a biannual report to Congress identifying: how many veterans report burn pit exposure; how many veterans file VA disability claims and the outcome of those claims; a comprehensive list of conditions for which burn pit-exposed veterans seek treatment; the reported location of burn pits and whether veterans died after seeking care for an illness related to such toxic exposure.

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