Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) & Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have come together on a bi-partisan bill that will replace S. 1602. They want to introduce it tomorrow. It gives us a good deal of what we want, and it has a chance of passage this Congress. We anticipate that there will be a House companion bill that also has a good chance of passage this year.
S. ______- Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014
Section 1: Short Title: Designates the bill as the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014.
Section 2: Definitions Armed Force, descendant [the biologic child, grandchild or great-grandchild of an individual], toxic substance, veteran
Section 3: National Center for the Research on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Health Conditions of the Descendants of Individuals Exposed to Toxic Substances During Service in the Armed Forces.
· Requires the VA to select a VA medical center, in consultation with the advisory board created in this Act, to serve as the National Center for the research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of descendants of individuals exposed to toxic substances while serving in the Armed Forces.
o Selection will be among VA medical centers with expertise in diagnosing and treating individuals exposed to toxic substances or is affiliated with research medical centers or teaching hospitals with such expertise.
· In conducting research the National Center can study individuals, at their election to participate, who are a member of the Armed Forces exposed to toxic substances, a descendant of an individual in the Armed Forces exposed to toxic substances, or an individual identified by the advisory board created in this Act who has a health condition resulting from exposure to toxic substances.
· Authorizes the use of records by the Secretary of Defense or other federal agencies to make available evidence of individuals exposed to toxic substances while serving in the Armed Forces, which could be used to assist the VA in determining individuals to participate in research.
· Authorizes the National Center to employ one clinical social worker to coordinate and handle case management.
· Authorizes reimbursement for the reasonable costs of travel and room and board to the National Center for participation in research and for a parent, guardian, spouse or sibling accompanying.
Section 4: Establishes an Advisory Board responsible for advising the National Center, determining health conditions that result from toxic exposure and to study and evaluate cases of exposure.
· The Secretary of the VA, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and other federal agencies as appropriate, will 13 members for the Advisory Board.
o Members may include descendants, advocates for veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and health professionals, scientists, academics with expertise including but not limited to fields of birth defects, disabilities, environmental exposures, toxic substances and medical research ethics.
· The advisory board will oversee and assess work at the National Center and advise the Secretary of the VA on the research and findings that could impact the potential for benefits and services of individuals suffering from health conditions due to the exposure to toxic substances.
· The Advisory Board will determine health conditions in descendants that are a result of their connection to individuals exposed to toxic substances while serving as members of the Armed Forces for the purpose of assessing eligibility for medical care under section 1781 of title 38, United States Code.
o Study and evaluate claims submitted by veterans, a current member of the Armed Forces, a descendant, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) or VA officials regarding health conditions resulting from exposure to toxic substances.
o Consider toxic substance exposure claims in coordination with the Center and assess the extent the exposure developed into a health condition that would qualify an individual for medical care and compensation. The Advisory Board will provide these considerations to the Secretary of the VA and to the center for further research.
· Establishes an annual reporting requirement for the Advisory Board to the Secretary of the VA as to the determinations of the claims submitted and evidence of research on such claims. The report would also include recommendations to the VA and/or DoD on the potential care and cost of treating such health conditions related to toxic exposure.
· Authorizes reimbursement for the reasonable costs of travel and room and board in accordance with subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code.
Section 5. Declassification by Department of Defense of Certain Incidents of Exposure of Members of the Armed Forces to Toxic Substances.
· Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to declassify documents related to incidents in which at least 100 members of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of a disability caused by exposure, except when declassification would threaten national security.
Section 6: National Outreach Campaign on Potential Long-Term Health Effects of Exposure to Toxic Substances by Members of the Armed Forces and their Descendants.
· Creates a national outreach and education campaign jointly led by the VA, DoD and HHS on toxic exposures directed toward members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their family members.