WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., CA-36, who has consistently fought for legislation on behalf of servicemembers exposed to burn pits. this week introduced five new pieces of legislation to address the military’s use of toxic burn pits.

This bill package follows Ruiz’s four-pronged approach to address the military’s use of toxic burn pits by: (1) ending the use of burn pits; (2) educating doctors and veterans on burn pits and their health effects; (3) getting servicemembers and their families the benefits and care they need; (4) conducting research needed to understand the full scope of danger associated with exposure to burn pits.

“In order to comprehensively address the military’s use of toxic burn pits, prevent exposure, and improve timely care for servicemembers, we must find alternatives to burn pits usage, educate military healthcare providers about the variety of illnesses due to toxic burn pit exposure, expand the burn pits registry and understand the gaps in scientific research,” Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician and founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral Burn Pits Caucus, said in a prepared statement. “Toxic burn pits exposure continues to threaten the health of servicemembers stationed overseas. Many servicemembers and veterans continue to become severely sick, permanently disabled, or die from respiratory failure, cancers, or autoimmune or other diseases due to burn pit exposure. This is an urgent problem that must be addressed right away. My 2020 burn pits bills package will help bring us closer to providing the attention that this DOD self-inflicted public health crises requires, identify at risk servicemembers and give them the timely care they need, and end the use of burn pits once and for all.”

Dr. Ruiz’s 2020 Burn Pits Bill Package includes:

  • H.R. 7597, the DOD Burn Pits Research Status Act, would require the Department of Defense (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.
  • 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. 7599, the Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Act, would require DOD to include in their budget request to Congress an estimate of funding exclusively dedicated for incinerators and waste-to-energy waste disposal alternatives to 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. 7600, the Burn Pit Registry Expansion Act, would require DOD and VA to expand the Burn Pits Registry to include Egypt and Syria.

Ruiz’s Previous Burn Pits Advocacy:

Ruiz, along with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), established and co-chair the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, a bicameral, bipartisan coalition of 31 Members of Congress who raise awareness and advocate for veterans exposed to burn pits.

  • In March 2019, Ruiz introduced H.R. 1381, the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act, which passed the House and improves the burn pits registry by allowing entries to be updated with the cause of death after a registered veteran passes away.
  • In August 2019, Ruiz introduced H.R. 4137, the Jennifer Kepner HOPE Act, to provide veterans exposed to burn pits eligibility for VA health care and enrollment in Priority Group 6.
  • In October 2019, Ruiz introduced H.R. 4574, the Veterans’ Right to Breathe Act, to establish presumption of service-connected exposure to burn pits for nine pulmonary diseases including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic bronchiolitis.

Additionally, the following NDAA amendments introduced by Dr. Ruiz have become law:

  • H.R. 5515, John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019:
  • H.Amdt. 304 requires DOD to conduct a feasibility study on phasing out the use of open burn pits. Offered as amendment by Rep. Ruiz
  • H.Amdt. 303 requires DOD to carry out an annual education campaign to inform individuals who may be eligible to enroll in the burn pits registry of such eligibility.
  • H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020:
  • H.Amdt. 331 requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct an implementation plan to phase out the use of the nine active burn pits identified in an April 2019 report to Congress.
  • H. Amdt. 332 directs the DOD to provide Congress and the Veterans Administration with a list of the locations of military bases, posts, forward operating bases, combat outposts, and any other locations at which open-air burn pits have been used.

Image Sources

  • Burn pits: YouTube