WASHINTON, DC –The U.S. House of Representatives has passed four bills from Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., as amendments to address the military’s use of toxic burn pits.

The four pieces of legislation, which passed as part of H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, would expand the Burn Pits Registry, enhance medical training on the health effects of burn pits, increase reporting of burn pit exposure, and require a status update from the Department of Defense on all burn pits research.

Also included in this year’s NDAA was a 3.0 percent pay raise for the military, $1 billion for the Pandemic Preparedness Reslience National Security Fund, and improved housing oversight and management for military personnel and their families.

“I’m very pleased that my four burn pits bills passed the House as part of H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 and are now heading to the Senate,” Ruiz said in a prepared statement. “My bills will help bring us closer to providing the attention that this DOD self-inflicted public health crisis requires, quickly identify at-risk servicemembers and give them the timely and appropriate care they need, expand the Burn Pit Registry, and find gaps in scientific research. Servicemembers and veterans continue to become severely sick, permanently disabled, or die from respiratory failure, cancers, or autoimmune or other diseases due to toxic military burn pit exposure. I’m glad to support this bipartisan bill that helps us address this urgent problem right away and gives our servicemembers the pay raise they deserve.”

You can see Dr. Ruiz speak on his legislation here.

“Congress must act quickly, the question shouldn’t be scientific,” said Rosie Torres, the Executive Director of Burn Pits 360. “The question should be are we fulfilling our moral obligation to protect and serve these service men and women that borne the burden of America’s defense. It’s time we recognize these injuries as an instrumentality of war.  We must take action to chip away at the complex web of barriers, erected by entrenched political and bureaucratic interests, which deprive a class of injured Veterans of healthcare and benefits.”

“The VFW has advocated for research, care, and compensation surrounding toxic exposures for years, and recognizes open-air burn pits have affected our deployed service members in too many areas around the world,” said Pat Murray Director of the Veterans of Foreign War’s National Legislative Service. “The VFW thanks Dr. Ruiz in his efforts to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure veterans exposed to burn pits receive the knowledge, treatment, and care they deserve.”

“IAVA applauds Congressman Ruiz for his commitment to helping veterans and service members suffering toxic exposures, including burn pits.” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Executive VP Tom Porter. “His efforts to include provisions in the annual Defense bill to improve DoD transparency, establish medical training, and bolster research around toxic military exposures will take us measurable steps forward in this fight for those who have served our nation in uniform.”

Dr. Ruiz’s four bills that were included are:

  • H.R. 7600, the Burn Pit Registry Expansion Act, would require DOD and VA to expand the Burn Pits Registry to include Egypt and Syria.
  • H.R. 7596, the DOD Burn Pits Health Provider Training Act, would require DOD to implement mandatory training for all medical providers working under DOD on the potential health effects of burn pits.
  • H.R. 7598, the Post-Deployment Burn Pit Question Act, would require DOD to include a separate, stand-alone question about burn pit exposure in the Post Deployment Health Assessments (DD Form 2796) to increase reporting of Burn Pit Exposure.
  • H.R. 7597, the DOD Burn Pits Research Status Act, would require the DOD to provide a report to Congress on the status and timeline for completion of all studies being conducted or funded by the DOD to assess the health effects of burn pits. It would also require DOD to include potential challenges to completing studies and recommendations on how Congress can help DOD finish outstanding studies.

Image Sources

  • Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D.: C-SPAN