A bipartisan group of U.S. legislators introduced a new bill April 14 designed to diagnose and treat health conditions and physical impairments in the children and grandchildren of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service.
The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 calls for the creation of a national center at one of the VA hospitals where doctors can research ways to diagnose and treat the medical issues of descendants of military veterans.
Each war has produced veterans exposed to toxins that can, and often do, sicken or impair their children and grandchildren. The proposed bill would provide help for the offspring of veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, various neurotoxins in the Gulf War, and chemical weapons and toxic burn pits in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The bill was introduced by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representatives Dr. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Mike Honda (D-Cal.).
“Having served veterans as a surgeon … for over 20 years, I have seen far too many patients who suffer from unexplained, service-connected ailments,” Rep. Benishek said in a statement. “These conditions can even be passed down to their children. We owe it to our vets to find answers to illnesses caused by toxic exposure, and this bill will be a strong start to that process.”
The proposed bill would also authorize the U.S. Defense Department to declassify information about the armed forces’ exposure to toxic substances, including specific cases of exposure, so veterans and their doctors can improve their understanding of the medical problems they are facing.
“Declassifying documents and disclosure are critical and the least the government owes our veterans so they can better understand the impact these indirect exposures have to guarantee their children and grandchildren receive appropriate treatment,” Sen. Blumenthal said in a statement. “The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 will ensure this. We as a nation have just as much of a responsibility to the families as to those who actually wear the uniform.”
According to the legislators proposing the bill, military vets have seen levels of various cancers, birth defects, and other conditions soar among their children and grandchildren. Because little is known about the effects of toxic exposure, children suffering from its impact are often misdiagnosed and effectively shut out of beneficial treatment options.