WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) delivered opening remarks at a hearing on military toxic exposures focused on the human costs incurred from such hazards as Agent Orange and burn pits.
“Veterans deserve an enduring framework, supported by science, to identify, research and address cases of toxic exposure in a timely manner,” said Ranking Member Moran. “The need for reform has existed for too long, and veterans cannot be forced to wait decades for care any longer. I will continue to work with my colleagues and stakeholders to make certain that all veterans suffering negative health consequences from their service receive the care they deserve.”
Sen. Moran has been a vocal advocate for research on toxic exposures, leading efforts as chairman last Congress to pass bipartisan legislation, and last June hosted a roundtable discussion with the VA, Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and several veteran service organizations regarding care for veterans exposed to toxic exposure.
Click HERE to Watch Chairman Moran’s Full Remarks
Remarks as prepared:
“Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you to our witnesses for being with us today. I appreciate Chairman Tester holding this hearing on toxic exposures, and focusing on the human costs incurred from such hazards as Agent Orange and burn pits.
“In modern history, we have tragically seen that exposure to toxic substances has become an increasingly common component of armed conflicts and warfare. Such exposure is not always known or considered at the time, and too often the long-term health effects are not fully understood.
“Making certain that veterans have timely access to quality health care and benefits has always been one of my top priorities. For too long however, veterans, who have been exposed to toxic substances during the course of their military service, have faced overwhelming barriers to get the VA care and service they deserve – the burden of proof is challenging for veterans, and we must find a way to bridge the gap.
“I was encouraged by bipartisan legislation passed out of this committee last Congress to address this issue. As a result of our work, we now have several new laws on the books directing research and covering more of our Vietnam and Korean War veterans, but our work is far from done.
“Over the years, Congress has responded to multiple cohorts of veterans affected by exposure to mustard gas or lewisite during the 1940’s, ionizing radiation from nuclear test sites during the Cold War, Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Gulf War illness during Desert Storm and now burn pits and other toxins during the Global War on Terror. The varied approaches to addressing these different exposures in the past demonstrates the need to establish a fair, transparent, and sustainable process going forward. Decades of patchwork fixes show a clear need for improvement.
“As we consider ways to improve how our country cares for those who became ill through exposure to these substances during their military service, we must listen to those who have suffered negative health outcomes. I think all of my colleagues on this committee would agree when I say that the voices of veterans are always those we want to hear; theirs are the voices we hold in the highest regard in helping us do our job.
“It is also crucial that we hear from our scientific and medical communities. Care works best when there is a reliable system in place for VA to first conduct or be provided with the necessary scientific research upon which to inform timely decisions on whether to establish presumptions of service-connection for certain conditions.
“Veterans deserve an enduring framework, supported by science, to identify, research and address cases of toxic exposure in a timely manner. The need for reform has existed for too long, and veterans cannot be forced to wait decades for care any longer. I am interested to hear from our witnesses today on how best we on this committee can achieve that outcome for veterans.
“We look forward to hearing from each of you today and to continue to work to make certain that all veterans suffering negative health consequences from their service receive the care they deserve.”