US House introduces bill to provide care, benefits to veterans and their families exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals; bill would consider PFAS exposure at military installations as service-connected injuries, enabling eligibility for VA benefits

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

WASHINGTON , June 22, 2023 (press release) –

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-08), co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, today introduced legislation to ensure that veterans and families exposed to toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military installations get health care and benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act (VET PFAS Act) would require the VA to cover treatment of certain health conditions linked to PFAS exposure. Under this bill, illnesses associated with PFAS exposure will be considered service-connected injuries, making veterans and their families exposed to PFAS eligible for medical treatment and disability payments from the VA.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension and other health issues. It is estimated that there is PFAS contamination at over 700 American military bases worldwide.

“We made a promise to those who signed up to serve our country that we’d take care of them and their families. This bill makes good on that promise by ensuring that all service members exposed to toxic chemicals as a part of their military service get the health care they need,” said Congressman Kildee. “As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, I am proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to fight to clean up chemical contamination at military bases and get veterans and their families the resources they have earned.”

Congressman Kildee has long led efforts to identify and address PFAS at U.S. military installations. Kildee secured a nationwide health study in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to study the impact of PFAS exposure. Once completed, any health conditions the study shows are linked to PFAS will be required to be covered by the VA. In addition, the VET PFAS Act would cover the following conditions related to PFAS exposure in past medical research, including high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

“Our nation has a sacred obligation to care for the men and women who have suffered the ill effects of toxic exposures in the military. DAV strongly supports the VET PFAS Act, as it keeps the promise and removes barriers to service-connected benefits and provides access to VA health care,” said Shane Liermann, Deputy National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans. “We applaud Congressman Kildee and his relentless advocacy and leadership for those exposed to PFAS.”

“The American Legion is proud to support the VET PFAS Act. It is vitally important that veterans and their families who were exposed to these toxic substances, while stationed at military installations, receive presumption of service connection, as well as hospital care and medical services. The American Legion has been assisting the veteran community for more than a century and is committed to ensuring veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned,” said Vincent J. Troiola, National Commander of the American Legion. “We thank Congressman Kildee for his continued leadership and commitment to veterans.”

“Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America proudly supports the VET PFAS Act to get much-needed care for veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service,” said Allison Jaslow, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Exposure to toxic PFAS has been linked time and time again to diagnoses of cancer, birth defects, and thyroid disruption, among other medical conditions. We applaud Congressman Kildee for his leadership to get veterans the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.” 

“Vietnam Veterans and every generation of military personnel and families have been impacted by exposure to PFAS from aqueous film-forming foam while serving on military installations,” said Jack McManus, President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “Vietnam Veterans of America fully supports the VETS PFAS Act, and thanks Congressman Kildee for introducing this critical piece of legislation.”

“When veterans signed up to serve this country, they didn't sign up for kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, or any of the other myriad health harms associated with PFAS exposure,” said Melanie Benesh, Vice President for Government Affairs of the Environmental Working Group. “PFAS has contaminated military installations across the country and the least the government can do now is ensure service members exposed during their service receive hospital care and medical services, as proposed by Congressman Kildee’s critical legislation.”

“Veterans and their families are among the most highly exposed people in America to toxic PFAS chemicals. They have put their lives on the line for our country, and we as a nation have a duty to provide them with the health care services that they need,” said Tony Spaniola, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network. “Congressman Kildee is working to fulfill that duty in the VET PFAS Act. We urge its passage without delay.”

The legislation is endorsed by the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Environmental Working Group, and the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.

Last Congress, Kildee helped pass the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which expanded VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. The VET PFAS Act builds on this historic legislation to ensure veterans exposed to PFAS chemicals receive the same access to care and benefits.

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