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The Good, the Bad, and the Crap about Senate Bill 3541

By Stephanie Kalota
Founder, Veteran Legislative Voice

On February 1, 2022, Senator Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced a bill into his own committee called the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act. This bill’s purpose was to improve health care and services for veterans exposed to toxic substances, and for other purposes. This bill would basically:

  • Expand the eligibility for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs for all veterans by removing the five year eligibility for health care to ten years. This is very important because many veterans have been reluctant to seek anything from the VA because of the reputation. This reluctance makes it more difficult to win VA disability and can make their conditions worse by going without treatment.
  • Incorporate a screening to help determine potential exposures to toxic substances during active military, naval, air or space service as part of a health care screening furnished by VA. My concern is that this specifically leaves out Guard or Reserve service members, frustrating because they perform their weekend and annual training in locations that may have been compromised by toxic exposures like PFAS.
  • Create training for personnel of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with respect to veterans exposed to toxic substances. This way the medical professionals could better treat veterans on issues that may arise from exposure. This also creates a possibility that the Veteran Affairs professionals would be better trained to establish a nexus to service connection in terms of VA disability.
  • Gather and maintain data for analysis and reporting on treatment, mortality, studies on health trends, study of cancer rates. This is something that could be very vital towards treating veterans with toxic exposures. This type of analysis would also be reported annually to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. These reports leave out any stateside exposures because they specifically include exposures to deployments only to southwest Asia like the gas leaks in Hawaii, PFAS on other military bases, Agent Orange, and Camp Lejeune.

Overall, this bill sounds good and may improve the lives of many veterans. But this bill does not include any presumptions for service connection, despite the amount of research already gathered for them.

There are veterans who have already died from toxic exposures; it’s too late for them but we need to fight for the ones who are still alive and need our help.

Contact your elected officials and tell them that they need presumptive conditions passed for them, more specifically push for Senate bill 952.

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