Press Release

Welch-Ruiz Amendment to Support Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits Included in National Defense Authorization Act

Aug 11, 2023

WASHINGTON—On the one-year anniversary of the PACT Act, Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) and Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-25) celebrated the inclusion of their Reducing Exposure to Burn Pits Amendment in this year’s Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in late-July. The bipartisan amendment, which Senator Welch introduced alongside Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Tillis (R-NC), 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 was a major step forward to ensure the cost of the war includes 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. “This amendment will inform mitigation of the use of burn pits and, in so doing, help keep more veterans safe from toxic contaminants. It’s an important change, and I’m proud to join Rep. Ruiz to celebrate its inclusion in the NDAA.”

“I am honored that this critical piece of legislation has been included in the Senate’s NDAA. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help ensure it is signed into law to enhance protections for our toxic-exposed veterans,” said Dr. Ruiz.

The PACT Act was signed into law on August 10th, 2022, and represents the largest expansion of health care and benefits for veterans in decades. The bill expands U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during their service.

In the past year, more than 176,000 veterans have applied for PACT Act-related benefits and more than 503,000 veterans have received new toxic exposure screenings. Veterans now have until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 14, 2023 to file PACT Act claims – or submit their intent to file – and be eligible for benefits backdated to August 10, 2022. To learn more about the PACT Act and file a claim, please click here.