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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut

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Esty Hails Increase in Funding for Research on Exposure to Burn Pits

June 29, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) praised the House passage of H.R. 6157, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. The bill, which cleared the House by a vote of 359-49, included language to increase funding for research on toxic exposure to burn pits.  Earlier this Congress, Esty, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced H.R. 1279, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions related to exposure to burn pits. On Monday, H.R. 1279 passed the Senate as part of a larger funding bill. 

“I’ve heard from veterans throughout Connecticut who are suffering – or know other service members suffering – from serious health complications that were likely caused by burn pits,” Esty said. “We cannot repeat our shameful inaction after the Vietnam War, when the government failed to acknowledge the terrible toll of Agent Orange. The courageous men and women of our military who endure environmental hazards and risk their long-term health on our nation’s behalf deserve the very best health care. With this additional funding, we can use new research and technology to significantly improve the quality of the care for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits, so that they can live longer, healthier lives.”

The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for FY 2019 provides funding to the DOD for military activities, personnel, operations and maintenance, research and development, and overseas contingency operations and the Global War on Terrorism. It also provides appropriated monies for other DOD programs including the defense health program and the Office of the Inspector General. Additionally, it places requirements and restrictions for programs and projects using funds provided by this bill and other appropriations Acts. 

Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances including the smoke produced from the burning of waste on military bases. Items such as plastics, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, metal containers, tires, and batteries are thrown into open pits, sometimes doused with jet fuel, and set ablaze. Smoke from these open-air burn pits can waft throughout the entire base and even into living areas.

Esty serves on the Committee of Veterans Affairs and is the Ranking Member on the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee.

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