Press Release

Welch Introduces New Bipartisan, Bicameral Bills to Eliminate Burn Pits and Help Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits

Jun 21, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) this week introduced the bicameral Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry 2.0 Act and the bipartisan, bicameral Burn Pit Elimination Act, bills that would improve, expand, and enhance protections for veterans under the PACT Act in addition to eliminating burn pits to prevent future toxic exposure cases. Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA-25) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) introduced companion legislation for both bills in the House. 

The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry 2.0 Act would direct the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report to Congress on the status and timeline of when the redesigned Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry 2.0 will be completed. The redesigned registry, which was planned to launch in October 2023, will enhance veterans’ experience with documenting their exposure to airborne hazards during military service and tracking the health effects of toxic exposure. This bill asks the VA to provide Congress with an update on their new registry, including expected completion date. 

The Burn Pit Elimination Act is cosponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and would redirect funding from existing open-air burn pit contingency operations to additional U.S. Army Expeditionary Solid Waste Disposal Systems, currently under prototype as an alternative to burn pits. The bill builds off of Sen. Welch’s bipartisan Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Actwhich directs DOD to issue a report on their efforts to develop alternatives to burn pits. The Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Act was included in part in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year. 

“Those who have served our country deserve our support and commitment when they return home. The PACT Act was a significant step toward ensuring that veterans exposed to burn pits are adequately protected.  However, we still have a long way to go to mitigate the risk of toxic exposure to servicemembers,” said Senator Welch. “These bills will improve protections for veterans exposed to toxic substances and invest in waste disposal alternatives that will eliminate burn pits.” 

“As the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, I am honored to champion the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) 2.0 Act and Burn Pit Elimination Act alongside my colleague, Senator Peter Welch,” said Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz. “These bills are the next step to ensure that the VA will complete the new burn pit registry and work on eliminating the remaining burn pits, ensuring our servicemembers are no longer exposed to harmful airborne hazards. It is crucial that we continue to advocate that our nation’s veterans receive the care they need, have earned and deserve.”

“While we’ve made significant strides with the PACT Act, we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the full impact of burn pit toxic exposure, ensuring all Veterans exposed received the support they deserve, and preventing future exposure to these toxins,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis.  “These bills are an important step in the right direction as we work toward those goals.” 

Senator Welch has championed efforts to limit toxic substance exposure among veterans in the Senate, including supporting legislation to educate servicemembers on the impact of burn pits and other airborne hazards and improve data collection on veterans affected by toxic exposure. This Congress, Senator Welch 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 bipartisan 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.  

Last year, a bipartisan amendment led by Sens. Welch, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) requiring the VA to conduct a review on mortality and toxic exposure data for veterans who served in Kosovo passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. Senator Welch is a cosponsor of the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement ActReducing Exposure to Burn Pits Actand Toxic Exposure Education for Servicemembers Act, bills that build on the PACT Act to provide increased support for veterans exposed to burn pits, improve data collection on burn pit and toxic substance exposure, and help mitigate future toxic substance exposure for servicemembers. 

Read the full text of the Burn Pit Elimination Act. 

Read the full text of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry 2.0 Act.