Immediate Release: May 18, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment by Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) to help ensure veterans receive the information and care they need if they are exposed to environmental hazards during their service. The McDemott Amendment was adopted in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA).
“Attributing a medical diagnosis or set of symptoms to an environmental exposure is a challenge to medical science and a source of frustration for service members, veterans and their families. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department needs to have a comprehensive plan to identify and address health risks resulting from environmental exposures,” said Congressman McDermott. “It’s great to have the plan, but we need to do more. To make sure veterans get the care they may need over the long-term we need the Defense Department to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs and share information whenever service members are exposed to environmental hazards or when the DoD learns something new about these exposure events.”
Service members are subject to hazards that can include exposure to air contamination resulting from the use of burn pits – like those used in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as from industrial toxic chemicals, and chemical and biological warfare agents. In addition, service members have been exposed to volatile organic compounds like trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene on military bases, as well as toxic radiological contaminants like those resulting from exposure to munitions containing depleted uranium.
The original draft of NDAA FY13 contained a provision requiring the DoD to develop a comprehensive plan on researching and documenting environmental exposure incidents to members of the Armed Forces. However, the provision did not explicitly connect this plan to the ongoing health information data sharing between the Defense Department and Veteran Affairs Department (VA). The McDermott Amendment requires DoD to provide a comprehensive update on their data sharing on these exposure event with the VA as part of their plan.
“The goal of my amendment is to enhance interdepartmental coordination and collaboration so that active duty members of the armed forces and veterans exposed to harmful toxins during their military service get the answers, attention and treatment they and their families need,” said Congressman McDermott.
Follow McDermott on Twitter: @RepJimMcDermott.