Tester, Moran Issue Statement on Military Toxic Exposure Efforts on Veterans Day

Senators: “While there is still work to be done, we are confident that Republicans, Democrats, advocates, and VA will continue working together in good faith to deliver on a historic effort to provide critical relief to those who stood in harm’s way to protect our country.”

(U.S. Senate) – Following an announcement from the Biden Administration today on a new process for establishing presumptive conditions, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) issued a statement highlighting a historic, bipartisan effort to deliver health care and benefits to all generations of toxic exposed veterans:

“We’re supportive of VA Secretary McDonough’s recent action to establish a new presumptive process that will assist our ongoing effort to provide health care and benefits to more veterans. As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, we will continue pushing to enhance legislation that includes bipartisan ideas from veterans and advocates that are grounded in science and transparency, and responsive to the needs of every man and woman impacted by toxic exposure. As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, we are working to incorporate feedback from VA and CBO to identify the best path forward. While there is still work to be done, we are confident that Republicans, Democrats, advocates, and VA will continue working together in good faith to deliver on a historic effort to provide critical relief to those who stood in harm’s way to protect our country. Veterans simply can’t wait any longer, and comprehensive legislation is our best shot at ensuring we do right by our past, present, and future generations.”

Earlier today, the White House announced a new pilot program to change the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approaches presumptive conditions related to veteran exposures—ensuring VA is actively gathering and considering as much science and data as possible to help connect veterans with access to health care and benefits in a timely manner.

As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senators Tester and Moran have been dedicated to identifying a path forward for outstanding toxic exposure issues—working for months on comprehensive, legislative solutions to provide timely care and benefits to exposed veterans, as well as focused cooperation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to utilize already existing executive authorities.

A longtime fighter for the expansion of care and benefits for toxic exposed veterans, Tester unveiled his COST of War Act in May.  Incorporating bills introduced by both Republicans and Democrats, this legislation would allow veterans affected by toxic exposure—including 3.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans—to obtain immediate and lifelong access to VA health care. Understanding the need for additional VA input and a formal CBO cost estimate, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously passed the legislative package to continue its bipartisan effort on ensuring access to life saving health care and benefits.

In the months since, the Senators have continued working to incorporate robust technical assistance from VA and review cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which are integral to advancing this effort to address toxic exposure related conditions for all generations of veterans. The Chairman and Ranking Member are committed to holding a hearing with expert stakeholders in the coming weeks.

Bill text of the COST of War Act of 2021 can be found HERE.

A one-pager on the COST of War Act can be found HERE.