On February 24, 2021, Senator Dan Sullivan (AK) and Senator Joe Manchin (WV), introduced S. 437—the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2021. The bill would concede exposure to burn pits and the toxins emitted.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not provide a presumption of service connection for diseases related to burn pit exposure. Exposed veterans must file for direct service connection and VA has denied nearly 80% of those claims since 2007. The recent report from the National Academies notes that there is insufficient evidence for presumptive diseases and more studies are needed.
However, Congress can take action now and not wait for more studies. S. 437 would concede exposure to burn pits to any veteran who served in recognized countries and to specific toxins currently accepted by VA. If the evidence is not sufficient for VA to grant the claim, the bill requires VA to request a medical opinion to address the association of the veteran’s claimed disease to the known toxins.
Consistent with DAV Resolution No.049, we support S. 437, as it would remove obstacles for veterans establishing claims based on burn pit exposure. We are calling on all DAV members and supporters to contact their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor and support S. 437—the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2021.