WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced S. 4393, the Toxic Exposure in the American Military Act of 2020 (TEAM Act), legislation that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Senator Tillis has been a leading advocate for servicemembers and veterans exposed to toxicants. Last month, he participated in a Washington Post Live discussion on the health care challenges veterans face after their service. In 2019, he co-introduced The Janey Ensminger Act to ensure individuals with diseases scientifically linked to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina receive proper medical care from the Veterans Administration (VA). Senator Tillis also co-led efforts to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2018, Senators Tillis and Amy Klobuchar introduced and successfully passed legislation that would create a Center of Excellence in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
“As the Senator from North Carolina, I know firsthand the obstacles thousands of veterans who have been exposed to toxicants while serving our country have had to overcome. Veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune spent decades pushing for documentation of their exposure and fair treatment for the damages caused by the military, but this cannot continue to be the norm,” said Senator Tillis. “After working alongside veterans who were stationed Camp Lejeune and fighting for servicemembers exposed to toxicants from burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s clear the men and women who served our country deserve better. The bipartisan TEAM Act ensures that all veterans are given a fair and uniform process to receive the health care and benefits to which they are entitled following exposure to toxicants during their service.”
The following statement from The Toxic Exposures in The American Military Coalition (TEAM) was included in a press release from Tillis’ office: “After nearly two years of tireless work by our Coalition comprised of over 30 Veteran Service Organizations and subject matter experts, we are grateful to see that veterans made ill as a result of toxic exposures during their military service will receive the care they need, and most importantly, deserve”
Specifically, the TEAM Act:
- Provides consultation and testing through VA for eligible veterans exposed to toxic substances.
- Requires VA to respond to new scientific evidence regarding diseases associated with toxic exposure within an established timeframe.
- Establishes a scientific commission to research the health effects of toxic exposure in veterans and report the commission’s findings to VA and Congress.
- Ensures VA enters into agreements with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct scientific studies regarding associations between diseases and exposure to toxic substances during military service.
- Develops an online portal for veterans to access the Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record.
- Expands training on toxic exposure issues for VA health care and benefits personnel.
- Requires VA to develop a questionnaire for primary care appointments to help determine whether a veteran may have been exposed to toxic substances during service.