WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously passed landmark legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Senator Tillis has been a leading advocate for servicemembers and veterans exposed to toxicants. Earlier this year, Senator Tillis participated in a Washington Post Live discussion on the health care challenges veterans face after their service. In 2019, he co-introduced The Janey Ensminger Act to ensure individuals with diseases scientifically linked to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina receive proper medical care from the VA. Senator Tillis also co-led efforts to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2018, Senators Tillis and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced and successfully passed legislation that created a Center of Excellence in the VA focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
“Passage of the TEAM Act out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is a positive step to ensure that all veterans are given a fair and uniform process to receive the health care and benefits to which they are entitled following exposure to toxicants during their service,” said Senator Tillis. “After working alongside veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and fighting for servicemembers exposed to toxicants from burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was clear that the men and women who served our country deserve better. I’m proud we could build bipartisan support for this landmark legislation, and I will continue to work to build support so we can pass it out of Congress and get it signed into law.”
“After nearly two years of tireless work by our Coalition, we are grateful to see S. 4393, The TEAM Act of 2020, take another critical step in becoming reality. Servicemembers and veterans who are suffering from Toxic Exposure related illnesses are in desperate need for quality care. We urge the Senate to pass S. 4393 immediately.” – The Toxic Exposures in The American Military Coalition (TEAM)
The Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act has been endorsed by the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition, the National Military & Veterans Alliance and DAV, a non-partisan consortium of veterans and military service organizations and experts, including the Air Force Sergeants Association, American Military Society, American Retirees Association, AMVETS, American WWII Orphans Network (AWON), Armed Forces Retiree Association, Association of the United Sates Navy, California Communities Against Toxics, Cease Fire Campaign, Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States Fleet Reserve Association, Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., HunterSeven Foundation, The Independence Fund, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Japanese American Veterans Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Veterans Advocacy, National Veterans Legal Services Program, Stronghold Freedom Foundation, Task Force Dagger Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), TREA: The Enlisted Association, Veteran Families for Exposure Awareness, Veteran Warriors, Inc., Veterans of Foreign Wars, VetsFirst, and Wounded Warrior Project.
Specifically, the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act of 2020:
- Expands VA Health Care for veterans exposed to toxic substances.
- Requires VA to respond to new scientific evidence regarding diseases associated with toxic exposure within an established timeframe.
- Establishes a scientific commission to research the health effects of toxic exposure in veterans and report the commission’s findings to VA and Congress.
- Ensures VA enters into agreements with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct scientific studies regarding associations between diseases and exposure to toxic substances during military service.
- Develops an online portal for veterans to access the Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record.
- Expands training on toxic exposure issues for VA health care personnel.
- Requires VA to develop a questionnaire for primary care appointments to help determine whether a veteran may have been exposed to toxic substances during service.