U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) and members of the PFAS Task Force today introduced legislation to ensure that veterans and their families exposed to toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) 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 for any health condition found to be associated with exposure to PFAS exposure. Under this bill, illnesses connected to PFAS exposure will also be considered a service-connected disability, making veterans exposed to PFAS eligible for disability payments and medical treatment from the VA.
"Our nation's heroes and their families who were unknowingly exposed to PFAS contamination deserve access to care," said Senator Peters. "We know exposure to PFAS can have very dangerous health consequences. I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, and I will continue working to address PFAS contamination."
"Our veterans shouldn't have to stand at the back of any line for their health care, especially when they face health risks because of their service," said Senator Stabenow. "Our bill makes sure veterans and their families harmed by PFAS chemicals will be eligible for treatment and benefits from the VA."
"For the brave servicemembers who put their life on the line for our country, we owe it to them to ensure that their health needs are taken care of," said Senator Casey. "This legislation works to ensure that vets suffering as a result of PFAS exposure can get the treatment they need at the VA. I urge my colleagues to support this important measure."
"When someone signs up to serve in the military to defend our country, we make a promise to take care of them when they come home," Congressman Kildee said. "This bill makes good on that promise, making sure that all service members exposed to harmful PFAS chemicals get the health care and support they need. I am proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate as we fight to clean-up PFAS chemical contamination at military bases and get veterans the health care they have earned."
The VET PFAS Act is also sponsored by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Congresswoman Haley Stevens (MI-11).
"Military families give up a lot in service to our country and freedoms, they don't deserve increased risk of serious health concerns," said Dingell. "If someone gets sick because they grew up or lived on a military base, they shouldn't have to bear the brunt of those medical costs. It's just not right. This important bill gives health and disability benefits to veterans and their families to cover health conditions known to be associated with PFAS exposure."
The military uses PFAS chemicals 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 2018 National Defense Authorization Act included a nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS on service members and their families and it was funded by the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations bill secured by Congressmen Kildee, Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters. 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.