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Congressman Raul Ruiz

Representing the 36th District of California

House Passes Rep. Ruiz’s Legislation to Help End the Use of Burn Pits, Protect Exposed Servicemembers and Veterans

July 12, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed four amendments authored by Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Palm Desert) that seek to end the use of burn pits, educate doctors about the health effects of burn pit exposure, and increase transparency about active burn pits threatening the health of servicemembers stationed overseas. Dr. Ruiz’s amendments were included in H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which passed the House by a vote of 402-12 and is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.

“We must act now to end the use of burn pits and help our exposed veterans and servicemembers battling cancers, lung diseases, and rare illnesses,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Exposure to burn pits took the life of Jennifer Kepner – an Air Force veteran and mother of two from Cathedral City – whose dying wish was to protect other veterans and their families from the pain and suffering she experienced. My amendments will move us closer to ending the use of burn pits once and for all, improve transparency and accountability at the Department of Defense, and train doctors to identify the warning signs of rare and life-threatening diseases linked to burn pits. I will never stop fighting for veterans like Jennifer, whose legacy of empathy and service continue to inspire my advocacy for veterans in our local communities and across our nation."

Dr. Ruiz's first amendment, H.Amdt. 331, requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct an implementation plan to phase out the use of the nine active burn pits identified in an April 2019 report to Congress.

Dr. Ruiz’s second amendment, H. Amdt. 332, directs the DOD to provide Congress and the Veterans Administration with a list of the locations of military bases, posts, forward operating bases, combat outposts, and any other locations at which open-air burn pits have been used.

Dr. Ruiz’s third amendment, H. Amdt. 333, requires the DOD to provide a detailed report to Congress on the status, methodology, and culmination timeline of all the research and studies being conducted to assess the health effects of burn pits.

Dr. Ruiz’s fourth amendment, H. Amdt. 334, requires DOD to implement mandatory training for all medical providers working under DOD on the potential health effects of burn pits and its early detection, as well as other airborne hazards, such as PFAS, mold, or depleted uranium.

Background

On June 25th, Rep. Ruiz introduced four amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. Those amendments passed the House by unanimous bipartisan consent, and H.R. 2500 passed the House on July 12, 2019, sending these provisions to the Senate.

During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits were used to dispose of waste, chemicals, and trash – including batteries, jet fuel, and other hazardous materials – from American military bases. One burn pit in Balad, Iraq was more than 10 acres large and was fed more than 240 tons of waste per day, releasing large clouds of black smoke that left runways, airfields, and tents covered in fine, green-black soot. The toxic chemicals, carcinogens, and particulate matter released have been linked to veterans developing life-threatening cancers, lung diseases, and rare illness.

Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician and the co-chairman of the bipartisan Burn Pits Caucus. Earlier this year, the House passed Congressman Ruiz’s H.R. 1381, the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act, to allow entries in the burn pits registry to be updated with the cause of death after a registered veteran passes away. The bill will expand and improve the data available for studies related to burn pits, helping researchers determine the full range of diseases and negative health outcomes that can result from exposure to burn pits.

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