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A bill to support veterans exposed to burn pits is stalled

Graphic: Montana news from Montana Public Radio

A bill to expand benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits is suddenly hung up on a procedural snag in Congress.

The U.S. Senate last week voted 84-14 to pass legislation increasing disability benefits and health care services for veterans suffering health problems associated with burn pits.

The bill faced a final vote in the U.S. House this week, but a procedural blunder has delayed its glidepath to President Joe Biden’s desk and may send it back to the Senate.

Representatives pointed out the bill contained a revenue and tax measure, meaning the legislation should have originated in the House in order to comply with the U.S. Constitution.

Senator and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Jon Tester, says with the July Fourth Congressional recess approaching, this hang up may delay the bill’s expected passage.

“I’ll also tell you this – I know who screwed up,” Tester said. “If I was in charge of them – and I’m not – I would fire them because this is a fire-able offense in my opinion.”

Tester says he thinks the tax and revenue section can be stripped out with little to no impact on the legislation.

He tells MTPR it’ll just delay the measure’s implementation, which he says hurts veterans.

Senator Steve Daines also supports the bill.

For decades the military incinerated waste in open burn pits. Veterans who inhaled the fumes and fell ill had to prove the burning was responsible; a difficult burden of proof to meet.