Udall-Corker Burn Pit Registry Passes Senate Unanimously

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bob Corker (R-Tn.) announced Thursday that their bipartisan legislation to create a registry of service members and veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan has passed the Senate.

The Burn Pit Open Registry Act was included as part of an omnibus veterans measure, S. 3202, the “Dignified Burial and Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012,” which passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday. Senators Udall and Corker first introduced the measure in 2011 with cosponsors Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Mark Udall (D-Co.). It was unanimously passed by the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee in September.

"When our servicemen and women suffer from unexplained, invisible wounds, we must act to ensure they receive the treatment necessary to heal," Senator Udall said. "That is what we have done today, and I urge the House to act quickly on this legislation so military families, medical professionals and the Department of Defense can have the resources to provide our veterans with proper care."

“This registry will assist the VA in learning the effects of open-air burn pit exposure among our troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Corker.  “We have an obligation to make all veterans aware of health risks associated with their service so they can access any related benefits.” 

Senator Udall began work on this legislation after meeting MSgt Jessey Baca and his wife Maria of Albuquerque, who detailed Jessey's battle with cancer, chronic bronchiolitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments believed to have been caused by exposure to burn pits in Iraq. Earlier this year, Senatro Udall testified before a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on the legislation and mentioned the work of the Bacas, who had traveled from New Mexico to attend the hearing. Video of the Senator Udall testifying before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is available here and a photo of Senator Udall with the Bacas here.

"I am proud of the bipartisan work we have done for military families like Jessey and Marie Baca, whose efforts will help many others receive the answers they deserve after serving our country so bravely," Senator Udall said. 

“We need to know more about the connections between burn pit exposure and health problems affecting our servicemen and women, and this registry will help us gather the information we need,” Senator Bingaman said.  “I applaud Senators Udall and Corker for working so hard to get this provision over the finish line.”  

Once enacted, the bill will create a registry similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry. The establishment of an open burn pit registry will help the patients, doctors and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determine to what extent air pollution, caused by open air burn pits, has led to medical diseases among service members. The legislation will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans.

As early as 2002, U.S. military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials. The U.S. Department of Defense and numerous contractors made frequent use of burn pits at a number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force and the American Lung Association have confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits, and veterans and their families have reached out to Congress for action. The amendment is supported by numerous groups, including Burn Pits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of the U.S. Navy, Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.   

Summary of the Open Burn Pits Registry: 

  • Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service;
  • Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
  • Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry; and
  • Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure.

Just 4,380 Have Voted In The City Election After 9 Days Of Early Voting

Just 4,380 Chattanooga voters have cast ballots after nine days of early voting leading up to the March 7 city election. One day just 48 people showed up at the Northgate voting site. Only 88 went to the most popular early voting site - the election office off Amnicola Highway the same day. The high turnout thus far has been 199 at the election office on Tuesday. The ... (click for more)

Police Blotter: Man Finds Possible Rival's Hat While Delivering Gifts To Girlfriend; Man In Underwear Fussing With Neighbors

A man said he came by a house on Alabama Avenue in St. Elmo to give his daughter and his girlfriend gifts. While there he found a hat belonging to his cousin and he now believes that they are cheating on him. The girlfriend said that this was not true and did not want him there anymore because of his behavior. He agreed to leave and left walking. * * * A Brainerd woman ... (click for more)

CVB Should Share Financials With The Home Folks

The recent debate over the Convention and Visitor's Bureau's funding and budget has gotten ugly. A Hamilton County commissioner has asked questions and made comments about the CVB. The director of the CVB has organized a campaign to dismiss the commissioner's questions and comments. The children on the playground are choosing sides and nothing useful seems to be happening. It's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Haggling Must Stop

Far be it for me to suggest the Hamilton County Commission and the School Board need to spend more time at recess but it was obvious this week the two groups need to work at being better friends. We have nine county commissioners and just as many corresponding school board members to work together for the betterment of one entity – Hamilton County. Everybody who thinks that is happening ... (click for more)

Amazing Bradley Builds 32-0 Lead, Routs Cookeville 69-35 In Region 3-3A Tournament

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Bradley Central’s top-ranked Bearettes went into Friday’s Region 3-3A quarterfinal basketball game against Cookeville with several thoughts in mind. Sending a message was one of them. Stamp it delivered. The Bearettes, now at 30-0 with the tradition-rich program’s third-longest winning streak in its history, overwhelmed the Lady Cavaliers with a ... (click for more)

Macon County Ends Season For Signal Mountain Girls

The Signal Mountain Lady Eagles entered the first round of the Region 4-AA basketball tournament as the District 7-AA champions and riding high on a seven-game winning streak. The Macon County Tigerettes came to Signal Mountain Friday night for that first-round game on a two-game losing streak and still hurting after finishing fourth in last week’s District 8 gathering. But ... (click for more)