New OATH Act could help vets get treatment for toxic exposure

In an effort to increase access to disability benefits and treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a new bill (now connected to the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2020) requires that servicemembers include whether they were exposed to toxic materials in their medical records.

Later this year, lawmakers will rectify the two versions of the annual legislation into a final version that could potentially be approved before the end of the year. The herbicide Agent Orange, fumes from burn pits, the chemical foam used in firefighting, and mold in living quarters are often part of the toxic exposure connected to servicemembers’ illnesses.

According to an article published by Stripes.com. the bill. “[known] as the Occupational and Environmental Transparency Health Act (OATH Act), stands to impact all servicemembers as toxic exposure can happen at home or while serving on deployment. Even troops living in barracks or military family housing that was found to be unsafe because of mold or lead paint would have the exposure documented, said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., who introduced the bill alongside Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga.”

The OATH Act calls outlines three major revisions. It requires that the U.S Department of Defense include any toxic exposures (either at home or while deployed) in a servicemember’s health records, conduct a “post-deployment health assessment, and update all veterans’ health records based on information submitted to the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”

Some lawmakers have remarked that the OATH Act is a compliment to the Burn Pits Accountability Act, which calls for servicemembers to be asked about burn pit exposure during a post-deployment medical exam and added to the registry if need be. The article continued by saying that “This new law would automatically document those exposures when they occur, taking the responsibility from the veteran.”

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