Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI) introduced the Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act on Wednesday to increase health care coverage for veterans exposed to PFAS on military bases.
The bill would require the United States Department of Veterans Affair (VA) to cover treatment of certain illnesses linked to harmful levels of PFAS exposure.
PFAS are a class of toxic chemicals that have been used in many industries and in fire-fighting foam.
They have been linked to several health conditions including some kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
“When veterans signed up to serve this country, they didn’t sign up for kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, or any of the other myriad health harms associated with PFAS exposure,” said Melanie Benesh, Vice President for Government Affairs of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in a press release.
A recent report from EWG has detected or suspects PFAS in over 700 military bases across the country.
Kildee urged the VA to begin recognizing PFAS-associated health complications as ‘service-related’ injuries.
“When a veteran [is] sick because of this kind of exposure, the last thing they and their families should have to go through is to fight the VA to get access to benefits that we promised them when they put that uniform on,” said Kildee at a press conference with Congressman Mike Lawler (R-NY).
Shane Liermann, the Deputy National Legislative Director for nonprofit Disabled American Veterans, said he is confident about the bill’s supporting evidence, but does not know if Congress will act quickly.
Liermann explained that sick veterans do not have time to wait for the courts to sort it out.
“To know that you could win some of these cases on appeal but yet it took… four, five, six, seven years to win on appeal. It shouldn’t take that long, right? Veterans and their family members suffering from cancers can’t afford to wait,” said Liermann.
It is the fourth time this bill has been proposed in the last six years.