Press Release

Senator Welch Leads Bills to Reduce Burn Pit Usage, Expand Education, and Data Collection on Burn Pit Exposure  

Jun 22, 2023

WASHINGTONSenator Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced three bills to limit toxic substance exposure among veterans, educate servicemembers on the impact of burn pits and other airborne hazards, and improve data collection on veterans affected by toxic exposure. The bills build on passage of the landmark Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill to expand health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances, which Senator Welch helped pass as a Member of the House of Representatives.   

The package includes the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act, introduced with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Act introduced with Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the Toxic Exposure Education for Servicemembers Act, introduced with Sen. Tillis. Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA-25) recently introduced companion legislation for the three bills in the House.  

“When we passed the PACT Act, we took a major step forward to ensure the cost of the war will include the cost of caring for the warrior. But we can—and must—do more to address the risk burn pits and other toxic substances pose for our veterans,” said Sen. Welch. “These bills will further our efforts to protect servicemembers from toxic exposure and provide high-quality, accessible care for veterans who were exposed during their service. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan group in introducing these essential, common-sense bills.”  

Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act  

The Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act, introduced with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), will improve data collection on burn pit and toxic substance exposure by directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow families and registered individuals to update the burn pit registry to reflect the cause of death of a loved one.  

 “Supporting our veterans and their families will always be one of the most important obligations of Congress. That is why I supported the PACT Act last year and will continue working on bipartisan solutions that help the VA and Department of Defense improve data collection on the health impacts of toxic exposure,” said Sen. Capito.  

Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Act   

The Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Act, introduced with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), will direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to explore alternatives to burn pits for waste disposal to mitigate veterans’ exposure to toxic contaminants associated with burn pit usage.   

“The PACT Act delivered on the promise that our veterans will receive the care they deserve by expanding healthcare access and coverage for individuals who were exposed to toxic and hazardous substances while protecting and defending us in the name of freedom. I’m proud to join my colleagues in building on our efforts to support our veterans who are exposed to harmful chemicals—including by finding alternatives to burn pits, so we can protect the next generation of veterans from suffering the effects of being exposed to toxic contaminants,” said Sen. Murkowski. “These bipartisan bills will further our mission to ensuring we’re doing all we can to care for and support the veterans who have sacrificed so much in service of our nation.” 

“The U.S. military’s use of burn pits to dispose of waste was a disastrous decision that continues to result in serious adverse health impacts for our servicemembers,” said Sen. Tillis. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure requires we find alternative methods for waste disposal to better protect the brave men and women who serve our nation.”  

Toxic Exposure Education for Servicemembers Act  

The Toxic Exposure Education for Servicemembers Act, also introduced with Sen. Tillis, requires DoD to conduct outreach to servicemembers about the risks associated with burn pit exposure and calls on DoD to establish a new risk assessment focused on the impacts of toxic substance exposure on military personnel.   

“Over the last two decades, we have seen the negative health effects burn pits have on our servicemembers who served in the Middle East,” said Sen. Tillis. “We must ensure every servicemember who might have been exposed is aware about the health impacts of burn pits, and this bipartisan legislation will create an assessment on the impacts of toxic exposures.” 

All three bills are supported by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Disabled Veterans of America (DAV), the Wounded Warrior Project, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association.  

The Toxic Exposure Education for Servicemembers Act is also supported by Burn Pits 360, the Reserve Officers Association (ROA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).