On Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs Department requested a stay until the House Veterans Affairs Committee considers changes to chemical exposure illnesses.
In Congress, fifteen measures to assist veterans suffering from ailments thought to be caused by foreign exposure to hazardous air or products are awaiting consideration.
The legislation has been spurred by veterans’ efforts to obtain disability benefits often getting blocked by the lack of scientific evidence connecting illnesses to specific exposures.
The committee met on Wednesday to streamline the process with a planned omnibus package of legislation in the House.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., are leading the campaign in the House. Senators John Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., are leading a related overhaul bill in the Senate.
“We cannot continue to tackle this topic one exposure at a time or one disability at a time,” Takano said during the hearing on Wednesday. “We’re committed to advancing comprehensive legislation this Congress.”
Bills that have already been introduced vary from educating veterans about how to handle the VA bureaucracy to providing health care to veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange, asbestos, or burn pits.
Burn pits are a popular 21st-century waste disposal system used by US troops in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Open-air combustion led to the hazards to potential “short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions,” a 2016 VA statement said.
Nearly 800,000 of the 2.5 million Global War on Terrorism veterans have filed claims regarding respiratory issues.
On Wednesday, VA secretary for policy and oversight Ronald Burke asked the House committee to delay Congressional action until the VA finishes an internal review of toxic exposure and submits a report to Congress within 180 days.
Committee representatives, on the other hand, emphasised the importance of passing a substantive bill as soon as possible.
“My responses today are not designed to frustrate the committee,” Burke said. “The department is committed to working with Congress and addressing this in a more holistic, faster, more accurate approach that is desperately needed.”