A Landmark Bill Promises Enhanced Health Coverage for Veterans Impacted by PFAS Exposure
A Bold Leap Forward: Congress Aims to Extend Healthcare to PFAS-Affected Veterans
In an ongoing battle for justice for veterans who have endured exposure to PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances), Congressman Dan Kildee takes center stage yet again.
This comes as the Congressman makes his fourth attempt to introduce the Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act (VET PFAS Act) in Congress.
If ratified, this legislation will ensure that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers treatment for health conditions associated with PFAS exposure.
The VET PFAS Act: A Light at the End of the Tunnel
PFAS are known toxic chemicals with a vast range of health impacts. High cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, kidney, and testicular cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension are just a few of the conditions linked to exposure to these toxins.
With the re-introduction of the VET PFAS Act, veterans suffering from these illnesses could see their conditions deemed “service-connected” injuries.
Such a designation would significantly simplify the procedure for veterans and their families to receive disability payments and medical treatment from the VA.
This eliminates the often complex process of proving a direct link between their symptoms and exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Despite the significant evidence and recognition of PFAS as a contaminant in numerous U.S. military sites worldwide, the VA has yet to acknowledge the associated illnesses as service-related.
Moreover, the Department of Defense continues to refute the idea that veterans were subjected to high levels of exposure.
Fighting for Justice: Persistent Efforts to Push the Bill
Kildee, a Democratic congressman hailing from Flint and co-chairing the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, first introduced this legislation.
Despite this initiative receiving widespread support from various veteran advocacy groups and environmental organizations, the Senate failed to move the bill out of committee in the last session.
Backing the Veterans: Widespread Support for the VET PFAS Act
The VET PFAS Act has been endorsed by prominent veteran advocacy groups such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, and the American Legion.
In addition to these, environmental groups like the Environmental Working Group and the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network also stand behind the legislation.
Shane Liermann, deputy DAV legislative director, has strongly supported the Act, stating, Our nation has a sacred obligation to care for the men and women who have suffered the ill effects of toxic exposures in the military.
DAV strongly supports the VET PFAS Act, as it keeps the promise and removes barriers to service-connected benefits and provides access to VA health care.”
Following the Precedents: An Analogy with the Past
The VET PFAS Act draws inspiration from a similar bill passed last year to provide presumptive benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits overseas, modeled on the care received by veterans for exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam.
With continued support from veterans, environmentalists, and legislators, the VET PFAS Act aims to honor the service of those who have endured toxic exposure during their military service, paving the way toward a healthier future.
Congressman Dan Kildee, a prominent advocate for the VET PFAS Act, highlighted the essential obligation our country holds towards its service members.
We made a promise to those who signed up to serve our country that we’d take care of them and their families. This bill makes good on that promise by ensuring that all service members exposed to toxic chemicals as part of their military service get the healthcare they need,” Kildee asserted.
Bipartisan Efforts to Combat the PFAS Threat
Although the legislation has faced hurdles, there is significant bipartisan backing for addressing the PFAS health crisis among veterans. U.S. Rep.
Jack Bergman, who now represents the region once served by Kildee, continues to support the fight against the health impacts of PFAS.
The former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, located in Iosco County, is one of the many military sites contaminated with these harmful chemicals.
The Road Ahead: Perseverance and Hope
The journey of the VET PFAS Act serves as a testament to the persistent efforts by lawmakers to seek justice for affected veterans.
In spite of previous unsuccessful attempts, the reintroduction of the bill this week signifies the relentless pursuit to secure good healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to PFAS.
As the struggle continues, the bipartisan support for the bill is a beacon of hope for the afflicted service members and their families.
The determination shown by representatives like Kildee in the face of adversity sends a clear message: the well-being of our veterans will not be compromised.