March 11, 2021

Manchin Discusses Impacts Of His Bipartisan Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act During Veterans Committee Hearing

Video of Senator Manchin during Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing can be found here

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), discussed the need for the Senate to pass his bipartisan Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act during a Senate Veterans Affair Committee hearing on military toxic exposures. Senator Manchin’s legislation would address a barrier currently preventing many Veterans from receiving U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare and benefits for health conditions related to exposure to burn pits. The bill would not automatically grant benefits or healthcare to Veterans who served near a burn pit, nor would it create a presumption of service connection, like Agent Orange.

During the hearing, several Veterans, including Mr. William Thompson, a retired Staff Sergeant in the West Virginia National Guard and U.S. Army, shared their experiences and health consequences from burn pit exposure during their service.

“Mr. Thompson, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your over 23 years of service in the United States Army and the West Virginia National Guard. I am honored to have the opportunity to meet you and proud to be a West Virginian because of Veterans like you who have made unimaginable sacrifices for our country. Your testimony sheds light on so many problems Veterans are facing when it comes to toxic exposure… What can Congress and the VA do to ensure that Veterans’ families are taken care and receiving the benefits they are entitled to after our Veterans are gone?” Senator Manchin in part, “I would like to say you and all West Virginians who are service members or Veterans that I’m going to keep fighting for your access to healthcare and benefits in both my roles on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee. I thank you for your service and I’m proud to represent one of the most patriotic states in the nation.”

Senator Manchin also questioned Mr. Shane Liermann, the Deputy National Legislative Director at Disabled American Veterans, on the short and long-term health consequences for Veterans exposed to burn pits.

“Mr. Liermann, first I want to thank you personally for all you have done and have been doing to help us with the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act. I know you have been working tirelessly behind the scenes with my staff and Senator Sullivan’s staff. I know you agree that we need to pass this legislation as soon as possible to ensure our Veterans have the access to care that they desperately need… Can you outline some of the consequences in the short and long term if we don’t pass this bill and the VA does not concede Veterans exposure to the specific toxins of burn pits? Senator Manchin continued, “Part of the reason I’ve enjoyed working in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is because regardless of our party, we always find a way to come together to support our Veterans in the most bipartisan way. I’m proud that has been the case with the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act Senator Sullivan and I reintroduced recently.”

In February, Senators Manchin and Sullivan (R-AK) reintroduced the Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act for the 117th Congress. Senator Manchin has since advocated for the passage of his bipartisan bill in multiple SVAC hearings. The legislation is currently endorsed by Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Legion, and Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and was previously cosponsored by 30 Senators in the 116th Congress, when it unanimously passed out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. 

A video of Senator Manchin’s statement during the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee can be found here.