WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) today commended the Senate’s passage of their bipartisan amendment requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a review for veterans who served in Kosovo and engaged in a toxic exposure risk activity, on mortality data for these veterans, toxic exposure data, and the type of toxic exposure risk activities these veterans engaged in.
“As our understanding of how sustained exposure to toxic substances impacts the welfare of our servicemembers evolves, so should our strategies to ensure they receive adequate care,” said Senator Welch. “I’m pleased to see the passage of this bipartisan amendment that would require the VA to carry out a review of how exposure to toxic substances affects the long-term health and physical performance of veterans who served in Kosovo in order to provide better services to those who served.”
“The Department of Defense estimates at least 25,000 servicemembers have deployed to Kosovo since 2004, many serving close to burn pits,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud this bipartisan amendment passed so we can effectively study the health data of toxic burn pit exposure to provide the best care possible to those who served.”
According to the Department of Defense, at least 25,000 active duty and Army National Guard soldiers have been sent to Kosovo since 2004. Some of these soldiers were stationed at military bases in Kosovo near dumps where waste is disposed of by burning, according to data provided to Senator Welch’s office by the Vermont National Guard.
In May, Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) led the Vermont and New Hampshire congressional delegations in sending a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis R. McDonough urging the VA to use authority granted under the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 to make it easier for veterans stationed in Kosovo from 1999 onwards to access health care and disability benefits for conditions related to toxic substance exposure during their service.