Sullivan Posts Three New Legislative Wins for Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), welcomed the committee’s passage yesterday of two pieces of his legislation addressing veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service, and the Senate’s unanimous passage on July 30 of his Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program Extension Act, a bill to increase access to care for veterans living in remote parts of the country.

“In the past few months, my office has heard from a number of veterans in Alaska and around the country about what they are seeing as serious medical concerns and the need for additional support for those who served at K2 in Uzbekistan,” Senator Sullivan said about his K2 Veterans Advocacy Act of 2020. “This bill moves the needle by ensuring three things are known systematically: the toxic substances at K2, the medical conditions that K2 veterans have, and the links between the two. It’s a first step, one of many that we need to take in order to do right by these service members and their families.” 

S. 4384, the K2 Veterans Advocacy Act of 2020 

Between 2001 and 2005, approximately 7,000 U.S. military service members served at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A 2015 study conducted by the U.S. Army found that service members who had deployed to K2 were more than five times as likely to develop cancer as their counterparts deployed to South Korea. Since the study, it is estimated that the number of veterans suffering from cancer and other serious medical conditions has increased dramatically, with many service members having died potentially due to toxic exposure at K2.

The VA and Department of Defense (DOD) have collaborated for years on research to understand the effects of military service and deployments to certain installations on veterans’ health, but additional research is necessary to determine causation or correlation between service at K2 and cancer or other illnesses and diseases.

Senator Sullivan’s bill, introduced with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), directs the VA to enter into an agreement with the administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, to assess possible linkages between K2 toxic exposure and cancers and other diseases. 

S. 2950, the Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act of 2019

Click here for more details on the committee’s passage yesterday of Sullivan’s other toxic exposure bill, S. 2950, the Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act of 2019.

S.850, the Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program Extension Act

Senator Sullivan’s Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program Extension Act permanently authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Transportation Service program, which allows facilities to hire drivers and purchase vehicles to transport veterans to and from their appointments, and requires the VA to establish a national protocol for volunteer drivers in its transportation programs.

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