Senator Hassan Discusses NH Veterans’ Exposure to PFAS Toxic Chemicals During Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan yesterday highlighted the danger that toxic chemicals, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pose to veterans, and their families, who have served on military bases during a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
“We have to recognize that unfortunately service members, veterans, and their families may have been exposed to toxic environments not only while serving overseas but also while they are right here at home,” Senator Hassan said. “In my state of New Hampshire, members of the military who served at the Pease Air Force Base, their families, and people living in and the surrounding community were exposed to drinking water contaminated by high levels of PFAS, pollutants that are known as ‘forever chemicals.’”
Senator Hassan expressed her support for strengthening PFAS safeguards at the federal level. She asked how previous Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies in response to toxic exposure on domestic military bases could inform other situations such as PFAS exposure.
“There is a history of toxic exposures throughout the country, even domestically,” said Shane L. Liermann, Deputy National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans. “Especially with the PFAS issue, they are now indicating over 600 military installations have been known to have high levels of PFAS.”
To best address this exposure, Mr. Liermann discussed ways to ensure that veterans who have served on domestic bases where toxic chemicals has been found can receive the care that they need, like setting up a presumption of service connection as was done at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“What we envision would be offering access to health care and benefits for all eras on the same basis and toxic exposures now and in the future and that would also include domestic as well as overseas. We think that those who are exposed on domestic bases should be offered care and benefits on the same basis as those overseas,” said Aleks Morosky, Government Affairs Specialist, Wounded Warrior Project.
Senator Hassan has long fought to address harmful PFAS chemicals. The COVID-19 relief and government funding bill that Senator Hassan helped negotiate and pass into law in December included nearly $300 million in funding to address PFAS, including $15 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide PFAS study. Additionally, in 2019, Senator Hassan joined colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan PFAS Accountability Act in the Senate, which would hold federal agencies accountable for addressing PFAS contamination at military bases across the country. Furthermore, Senator Hassan previously cosponsored legislation, introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, that would create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems potentially due to PFAS exposure. Additionally, in 2018, Senator Hassan participated in the first-ever Senate hearing on contamination of PFAS in drinking water.
To address chemical exposure overseas, Senator Hassan recently cosponsored bipartisan legislation to formally recognize that certain veterans were exposed to toxic 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. 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 final 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.
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