Congressman Dan Kildee, Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, today introduced new 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 of certain health conditions related 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.
Exposure to PFAS has been linked to diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension and potential other health issues. It is estimated that there is PFAS contamination at nearly 700 American military bases worldwide.
"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. "I am proud to fight to clean up chemical contamination at military bases and get veterans and their families the resources they have earned."
The military historically used PFAS in firefighting foam on military bases, including former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. According to health experts, these chemicals are dangerous to human health and many veterans have been exposed as part of their military service. Moreover, PFAS chemicals have leached into the groundwater around many military bases, making the surrounding drinking water unsafe for nearby residents.
The original cosponsors of the legislation include Reps. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Andy Levin (MI-9) Haley Stevens (MI-11), Elissa Slotkin (MI-8), Brendon Boyle (PA-2), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Antonio Delgado (NY-19). Senator Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Peters (D-MI) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
The legislation is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Michigan, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Need Our Water (NOW) Oscoda.
The VET PFAS Act is possible because of a nationwide health study included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act secured by Congressman Kildee. 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 covers the following conditions pursuant to a study of 68,000 people in West Virginia: high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.