WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today held a hearing on how the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense respond to in service exposures to environmental hazards.
The four exposures examined involved an incinerator near the Atsugi Naval Air Facility, water contamination at the Camp Lejeune Marine Base in North Carolina, chemicals at the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant in Iraq, and burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Committee heard testimony from VA, DOD, scientific experts, as well as affected veterans and veterans’ family members.
Senator Akaka said: “As the Committee charged with oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we must be certain that VA is providing appropriate health care and compensation to those who are harmed by exposures while serving in the military. For VA to do that, however, the Department of Defense must first determine who was exposed, what they were exposed to, and the health consequences of such exposure, and then share that information with VA.”
Although the Veterans’ Affairs Committee is not charged with direct oversight of DOD, the Committee does share with the Armed Services Committee responsibility for oversight where the roles of DOD and VA intersect. Issues relating to claimed in service exposure are one such instance of overlap. Six members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee also serve on the Armed Services Committee. As a practical matter, when issues arise in the Veterans’ Affairs Committee that fall under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, members can take their concerns to the appropriate forum.
Ocotber 8, 2009