Gabbard's 'burn pit' bill moves forward in key defense authorization act
Millions of service members in the Middle East have been exposed to what are called “burn pits.” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has compared it to Agent Orange from the Vietnam War.
WASHINGTON - Millions of service members in the Middle East have been exposed to what are called “burn pits.” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has compared it to Agent Orange from the Vietnam War. Now, her legislation aimed at helping those service members is moving forward in the U.S. House.
An Iraq War veteran, Gabbard has seen burn pits first hand.
“Every single day, the burn pit was going,” recalls Gabbard, who is still an active-duty Major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
The pits are full of garbage and waste, often times with toxic airborne chemicals. The affects are now causing cancer and respiratory problems for 3.7 million service members and veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They are not trucking it out to a landfill, they’re not taking it off-base,” Gabbard said. “It all goes into this burn pit.”
“Some people don’t develop the problems until years later,” explained Thomas Porter, legislative director at Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, a veteran’s advocacy and support organization based in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Now, Gabbard is hoping to prevent those illnesses from getting worse. Her legislation known as the Burn Pits Accountability Act is moving forward in the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping defense authorization act passed annually.
The bill would require the U.S. Defense Department to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used,and if they were exposed to those chemicals.
“This would dramatically increase the quantity and quality of data that goes to the VA for them to study and make the appropriate health recommendations to treat veterans,” Porter said.
Gabbard’s proposal is expected to be in the full National Defense Authorization Act when the House votes later this summer. However, companion legislation was left out of the Senate’s version of the NDAA.
“It provides a major step forward for us to make sure that our country is repaying its debt to our veterans and their service and sacrifice,” Gabbard said.