Congressmen Dan Kildee (MI-05) and Brendan Boyle (PA-13), along with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), today introduced two bills to ensure that veterans and their families exposed to toxic chemicals at military installations get the health care services and benefits they need 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 related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure. Under this bill, illnesses associated with PFAS exposure will be considered a service-connected disability, making veterans and their families exposed to PFAS eligible for disability payments and medical treatment from the VA.
The Care for Veterans Act ensures that veterans exposed to volatile organic compounds including trichloroethylene (TCE) at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base will also receive related health and disability benefits.
"We made a promise to our veterans who signed up to serve this country that we'd take care of them and their families. These bills make 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. "Toxic PFAS and TCE chemicals are increasingly being found across the country and we know exposure is harmful. I am proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate as we fight to clean up chemical contamination at military bases and get veterans and their families the resources they have earned."
"Michigan veterans and their loved ones who were exposed to PFAS, TCE, and other toxic chemicals during their military service are living with incredible uncertainty," said Senator Stabenow. "Our legislation will ensure that service members and their families get the health care services and benefits they need from the VA."
"Veterans and their families exposed to these chemicals as a consequence of their public service deserve the full support and attention of the federal government," said Congressman Boyle. "I am proud to work with my colleagues to confront this issue through a multipronged approach. This legislation ensures our service members and their families receive the healthcare they need and deserve. Just as the military leaves no one behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind at home."
The military historically used PFAS in firefighting foam on military bases. According to health experts, these chemicals are dangerous to human health and many veterans have been exposed as part of their military service. Moreover, around many military bases, PFAS chemicals have leached into the groundwater making the surrounding drinking water unsafe for nearby residents.
The VET PFAS Act is possible because of a nationwide health study included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations bill secured by Congressmen Kildee and Boyle, and Senator Stabenow. Once completed, the health conditions the study shows are linked to PFAS will be required to be covered by the VA.
In addition, the VET PFAS Act covers the following conditions pursuant to a previously conducted study of 68,000 people in West Virginia: high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.