WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits. The bipartisan bill, the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who passed away in May and was exposed to burn pits while deployed. Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Rep. Brian Mast (FL-18) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“This is a cost of going to war that we have to take responsibility for as a country. On the Vets committee we have a long history of putting party politics aside to work on behalf of the people who served this country, and 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,” said Brown.

“We owe our servicemembers a great 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. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation requiring VA to submit regular reports on veterans exposed to burn pits. The reports will provide valuable data on patterns of medical diagnoses and associated disability claims so we can better understand the impact of burn pits exposure and hold VA accountable for medical treatment and benefits to which veterans may be entitled,” said Portman.

“Heath may have died but his legacy will continue through his deeds and sacrifices.  He is a man who after fighting for his country in Iraq and returning safely from a war zone ended up fighting the battle of his life against the war that followed him home.  Heath is at peace knowing his resolve to help other burn pit veterans will continue and it's an honor to have the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act named after him,” said Danielle Robinson, Heath’s widow.

Specifically, Brown and Portman’s bill would:

  • Require VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and notify Congress of the case and several data points related to the veteran’s case and exposure to burn pits;
  • Require VA to submit a biannual report to Congress identifying how many veterans report burn pit exposure, how many make disability claims and what the outcome of those claims are, a comprehensive list of conditions reported by burn pit exposed veterans have, and the location of burn pits; and
  • Require healthcare providers to inform a veteran who mentions “burn pits” about the existing Burn Pit Registry so they have knowledge of the Registry and can register themselves.

 

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