Washington, D.C. —Yesterday, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about his bipartisan bill, H.R. 1355, the K2 Veterans Care Act.
This legislation would establish a “presumption of service connection” for the veterans who served at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan and who have since been diagnosed with toxic exposure-related illnesses and diseases, and require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide them with service-connected health care and disability benefits.
The House version of Chairman Lynch’s bill currently has 71 cosponsors. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) have sponsored S. 454, the Senate companion of Chairman Lynch’s bill.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Rep. Lynch led an investigation to determine whether more than 15,000 servicemembers were exposed to toxic chemicals and environmental hazards while deployed to K2 between 2001 and 2005. The investigation uncovered clear evidence that K2 servicemembers were exposed to multiple toxic hazards at K2, including jet fuels and petrochemicals in the soil, burn pits, depleted uranium, hazardous airborne particulate matter, and other cancer-causing chemicals.
Chairman Lynch also held two hearings last Congress on the effects of these exposures on K2 veterans and introduced legislation that would require the Department of Defense to conduct a study on the impacts of toxic exposures at K2 on the health of those who deployed there. That provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
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