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Senator Hassan Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Health Care for Veterans with Toxic Exposure

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan introduced bipartisan legislation to fundamentally reform and improve how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Senator Hassan recently joined Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) for a virtual press conference to highlight the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM Act) which they worked together to introduce.  


Senator Hassan is working to ensure that veterans exposed to toxins in the line of duty receive the health care that they need. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 included a measure that Senator Hassan supported to ensure that Vietnam War veterans can more easily access care for additional diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. Additionally, Senator Hassan cosponsored legislation that was included in the veterans package that was signed into law last Congress to direct the VA to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to assess possible health conditions linked to service members' exposure to toxic substances at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan. Furthermore, Senator Hassan joined colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act to formally recognize that certain veterans were exposed to burn pits during their service in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, which would make it easier for them to access VA health care and benefits for illnesses and diseases related to exposure to burn pits. 


See below for coverage highlights:


Union Leader: Hassan unveils bipartisan reform for vets exposed to toxins

By Kevin Landrigan


A proposed reform would speed up health care and other benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances overseas or in this country, said Paul Lloyd, past president of the New Hampshire Veterans of Foreign Wars.


“This has been a long time coming,” said Lloyd, who also serves as chairman of the New Hampshire Veterans Advisory Committee, during a virtual news conference Tuesday.


“In New Hampshire, we know folks have been affected (by toxins) on foreign grounds as well as back here in New Hampshire at Pease.”


A coalition of nearly 30 organizations on Tuesday endorsed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., to create the Toxic Exposure in the American Military or TEAM Act.


“We must continue to advocate for toxic exposure beyond the airborne hazards, burn pits and ‘other toxic exposure,’’’ said Doris Brock, an advocate for families affected by exposure to PFAS at Pease, the former Air Force base on the New Hampshire Seacoast. “I and my fellow New Hampshire guardsmen and women would like to see medical and disability coverage for all toxic exposure in all of the 50 states.”


Hassan said a key provision of the bill would create an independent commission which, in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences, would advise the federal Department of Veterans Affairs about toxic exposures affecting veterans.


“This will make a huge difference,” Hassan said. […]


Stars and Stripes: Senators reintroduce bill to reform VA support for veterans with toxic exposure

By Rose L. Thayer


Sens. Thom Tillis and Maggie Hassan have reintroduced a bill to reform how veterans exposed to toxins receive health care and benefits and requires the use of new scientific evidence to establish whether some health problems are connected to toxic exposures.


[…] Speaking together Tuesday to announce the reintroduction of the bill, Hassan and Tillis said the impacts go beyond veterans of a specific conflict or generation and includes those exposed to toxins while serving in the United States. They were joined on the call by seven veteran service organizations, many of which noted the importance of the bill to post-9/11 veterans exposed to toxic pits of burning trash while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries associated with the Global War on Terror.


More than 30 groups support the bill in its current form, Tillis said. […] 


[…] “It's critically important that we bring the best science we can to establish these connections. Obviously individual veterans would have a really difficult time doing this, but the [VA] and the scientific community can come together and do that,” said Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire. “Once the connection is established, because the TEAM Act would also ensure that the VA keeps track of who was stationed where and what kind of exposures they may have had, it will help develop an expertise within the VA for treatment.”


Hassan and Tillis are members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. […]


Connecting Vets: Lawmakers relaunch landmark bill to create path to VA care for veterans ill from toxic exposure

By Abbie Bennett


Veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service could qualify for additional care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs under landmark legislation reintroduced in Congress this week.


The Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act creates sweeping mandates for VA to further research, track and care for eligible veterans who fall ill because of exposure to toxic substances during service -- perhaps the most comprehensive legislation on military toxic exposures ever introduced in Congress.


[…] Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who represents Pease Air Force Base where troops and their families have been exposed to high levels of "forever chemicals" including PFAS, cosponsored the bill at its introduction.


[…] "We often place a huge onus on our veterans and service members, especially those who have been exposed to toxic environments," Hassan said Tuesday. "We have to make sure we're addressing the health challenges that occurred as a result of their service."


[…] The TEAM Act is the culmination of years of effort from the TEAM Coalition of more than 30 veteran service organizations, along with researchers, advocates and others working to codify care for veterans afflicted by their toxic exposures.