[Congressional Bills 113th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[S. 2738 Introduced in Senate (IS)]

113th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                S. 2738

 To establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a national center 
for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the 
 descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during service in 
 the Armed Forces, to establish an advisory board on exposure to toxic 
                  substances, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                             July 31, 2014

Mr. Blumenthal (for himself, Mr. Moran, and Mr. Begich) introduced the 
 following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on 
                           Veterans' Affairs

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
 To establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a national center 
for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the 
 descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during service in 
 the Armed Forces, to establish an advisory board on exposure to toxic 
                  substances, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Toxic Exposure Research Act of 
2014''.

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Armed force.--The term ``Armed Force'' means the United 
        States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, 
        including the reserve components thereof.
            (2) Descendant.--The term ``descendant'' means, with 
        respect to an individual, the biological child, grandchild, or 
        great-grandchild of that individual.
            (3) Toxic substance.--The term ``toxic substance'' shall 
        have the meaning given that term by the Secretary of Veterans 
        Affairs and shall include all substances that have been proven 
        by peer reviewed scientific research or a preponderance of 
        opinion in the medical community to lead to disabilities 
        related to the exposure of an individual to those substances 
        while serving as a member of the Armed Forces.
            (4) Veteran.--The term ``veteran'' has the meaning given 
        that term in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

SEC. 3. NATIONAL CENTER FOR RESEARCH ON THE DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF 
              HEALTH CONDITIONS OF THE DESCENDANTS OF INDIVIDUALS 
              EXPOSED TO TOXIC SUBSTANCES DURING SERVICE IN THE ARMED 
              FORCES.

    (a) National Center.--
            (1) In general.--Not later than one year after the date of 
        the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
        shall, in consultation with the advisory board established 
        under section 4, select a medical center of the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs to serve as the national center for research 
        on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of 
        descendants of individuals exposed to toxic substances while 
        serving as members of the Armed Forces that are related to that 
        exposure (in this section referred to as the ``National 
        Center'').
            (2) Criteria for selection.--The National Center shall be 
        selected under paragraph (1) from among medical centers of the 
        Department with expertise in diagnosing and treating functional 
        and structural birth defects and caring for individuals exposed 
        to toxic substances, or that are affiliated with research 
        medical centers or teaching hospitals with such expertise, that 
        seek to be selected under this section.
    (b) Research.--
            (1) In general.--The National Center may conduct research 
        on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of 
        descendants of individuals exposed to toxic substances while 
        serving as members of the Armed Forces that are related to that 
        exposure.
            (2) Studies.--In conducting research under paragraph (1), 
        the National Center shall study individuals, at the election of 
        the individual, for whom the Secretary has made one of the 
        following determinations:
                    (A)(i) The individual is a descendant of an 
                individual who served as a member of the Armed Forces;
                    (ii) such member was exposed to a toxic substance 
                while serving as a member of the Armed Forces; and
                    (iii) such descendant is afflicted with a health 
                condition that is determined by the advisory board 
                established in section 4 to be a health condition that 
                results from the exposure of such member to such toxic 
                substance.
                    (B)(i) The individual was exposed to a toxic 
                substance while serving as a member of the Armed 
                Forces; and
                    (ii) such individual is afflicted with a health 
                condition that is determined by the advisory board 
                established in section 4 to be a health condition that 
                results from the exposure of such individual to such 
                toxic substance.
            (3) Use of records.--
                    (A) In general.--The Secretary of Defense or the 
                head of a Federal agency may make available to the 
                Secretary of Veterans Affairs for review records held 
                by the Department of Defense, an Armed Force, or that 
                Federal agency, as appropriate, that might assist the 
                Secretary of Veterans Affairs in making the 
                determinations required by paragraph (2).
                    (B) Mechanism.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
                and the Secretary of Defense or the head of the 
                appropriate Federal agency may jointly establish a 
                mechanism for the availability and review of records by 
                the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under subparagraph 
                (A).
    (c) Social Workers.--The National Center shall employ not less than 
one licensed clinical social worker to coordinate access of individuals 
to appropriate Federal, State, and local social and healthcare programs 
and to handle case management.
    (d) Reimbursement for Necessary Travel and Room and Board.--The 
National Center shall reimburse any individual participating in a study 
pursuant to subsection (b), and any parent, guardian, spouse, or 
sibling who accompanies such individual, for the reasonable cost of--
            (1) travel to the National Center for participation in such 
        study; and
            (2) room and board during the period in which such 
        individual is participating in such study at the National 
        Center.
    (e) Report.--Not less frequently than annually, the National Center 
shall submit a report to Congress on the functions of the National 
Center during the year preceding the submittal of the report that 
includes a summary of the research efforts of the National Center under 
this section that have been completed during such year and that are 
ongoing as of the date of the submittal of the report.

SEC. 4. ADVISORY BOARD.

    (a) Establishment.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
establish an advisory board (in this section referred to as the 
``Advisory Board'')--
            (1) to advise the National Center established under section 
        3;
            (2) to determine which health conditions result from 
        exposure to toxic substances; and
            (3) to study and evaluate cases of exposure of current and 
        former members of the Armed Forces to toxic substances if such 
        exposure is related the service of the member in the Armed 
        Forces.
    (b) Membership.--
            (1) Composition.--Not later than 120 days after the date of 
        the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
        shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human 
        Services, the Director of the National Institute of 
        Environmental Health Sciences, and other heads of Federal 
        agencies as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines 
        appropriate, select not less than 13 members of the Advisory 
        Board, of whom--
                    (A) not less than three shall be members of 
                organizations exempt from taxation under section 
                501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
                    (B) not less than one shall be--
                            (i) a descendant of an individual who was 
                        exposed to toxic substances while serving as a 
                        member of the Armed Forces and the descendant 
                        has manifested a birth defect or functional 
                        disability as a result of the exposure of that 
                        individual; or
                            (ii) a parent, child, or grandchild of that 
                        descendant; and
                    (C) additional members may be selected from among--
                            (i) health professionals, scientists, and 
                        academics with expertise in--
                                    (I) birth defects;
                                    (II) developmental disabilities;
                                    (III) epigenetics;
                                    (IV) public health;
                                    (V) the science of environmental 
                                exposure or environmental exposure 
                                assessment;
                                    (VI) the science of toxic 
                                substances; or
                                    (VII) medical and research ethics;
                            (ii) social workers; and
                            (iii) advocates for veterans or members of 
                        the Armed Forces.
            (2) Chairperson.--The Secretary shall select a Chairperson 
        from among the members of the Advisory Board.
            (3) Terms.--Each member of the Advisory Board shall serve a 
        term of two or three years as determined by the Secretary.
    (c) Duties.--
            (1) Advisory role with respect to the national center.--
        With respect to the National Center established under section 
        3, the Advisory Board shall--
                    (A) oversee and assess the work of the National 
                Center; and
                    (B) advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on--
                            (i) issues related to the research 
                        conducted at the National Center; and
                            (ii) the particular benefits and services 
                        required by the descendants of individuals 
                        exposed to toxic substances while serving as 
                        members of the Armed Forces.
            (2) Determination that health conditions resulted from 
        toxic exposure.--The Advisory Board shall determine which 
        health conditions in descendants of individuals exposed to 
        toxic substances while serving as members of the Armed Forces 
        are health conditions that resulted from the exposure of that 
        individual to that toxic substance for purposes of eligibility 
        of those descendants for medical care under section 1781 of 
        title 38, United States Code.
            (3) Study and consideration of toxic substance exposure 
        claims.--
                    (A) In general.--The Advisory Board shall study and 
                evaluate claims of exposure to toxic substances by 
                current and former members of the Armed Forces that is 
                related to the service of the member in the Armed 
                Forces.
                    (B) Submission of claims.--Claims of exposure 
                described in subparagraph (A) may be submitted to the 
                Advisory Board in such form and in such manner as the 
                Secretary of Veterans Affairs may require by any of the 
                following individuals or entities:
                            (i) A member of the Armed Forces.
                            (ii) A veteran.
                            (iii) A descendant of a member of the Armed 
                        Forces.
                            (iv) A descendant of a veteran.
                            (v) A veterans advocacy group.
                            (vi) An official of the Department of 
                        Veterans Affairs with responsibility or 
                        experience monitoring the health of current and 
                        former members of the Armed Forces.
                            (vii) An official of the Department of 
                        Defense with responsibility or experience 
                        monitoring the health of current and former 
                        members of the Armed Forces.
                    (C) Consideration of claims.--Not later than 180 
                days after receiving a claim submitted pursuant to 
                subparagraph (B), the Advisory Board shall consider the 
                claim and take one of the following actions:
                            (i) If the Advisory Board determines that 
                        exposure to a toxic substance occurred to a 
                        degree that an individual exposed to that 
                        substance may have or develop a medical 
                        condition that would qualify that individual 
                        for health care or compensation from the 
                        Department of Veterans Affairs or the 
                        Department of Defense, the Advisory Board shall 
                        submit to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs a 
                        report described in subparagraph (D).
                            (ii) If the Advisory Board determines that 
                        further consideration of the claim is necessary 
                        to adequately assess the extent of exposure, 
                        the Advisory Board shall refer the claim to the 
                        National Center established under section 3 to 
                        conduct further research and report its 
                        findings to the Advisory Board.
                            (iii) If the Advisory Board determines that 
                        exposure to a toxic substance did not occur, 
                        the Advisory Board shall report such 
                        determination to the Secretary of Veterans 
                        Affairs.
                    (D) Report.--If the Advisory Board makes a 
                determination under subparagraph (C)(i), the Advisory 
                Board shall submit to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
                a report that contains the following:
                            (i) Evidence used by the Advisory Board in 
                        making the determination under subparagraph 
                        (C)(i), including, if appropriate, the 
                        following:
                                    (I) Scientific research.
                                    (II) Peer-reviewed articles from 
                                scientific journals relating to 
                                exposure to toxic substances.
                                    (III) Medical research conducted by 
                                the Department of Veterans Affairs, the 
                                Department of Defense, or the medical 
                                community.
                            (ii) Recommendations on the extent to which 
                        the Department of Veterans Affairs or the 
                        Department of Defense should provide health 
                        care, benefits, or other compensation with 
                        respect to exposure to a toxic substance to the 
                        following individuals:
                                    (I) An individual exposed to a 
                                toxic substance as determined under 
                                subparagraph (C)(i).
                                    (II) A descendant of that 
                                individual.
                            (iii) Information on cost and attributable 
                        exposure, as defined in regulations prescribed 
                        pursuant to this Act.
                    (E) Publication of evidence.--
                            (i) In general.--Except as provided in 
                        clause (ii), the Secretary shall publish in the 
                        Federal Register the evidence described in 
                        clause (i) of subparagraph (D) that is 
                        submitted with the report required by that 
                        subparagraph.
                            (ii) Exception.--Such evidence may not be 
                        published if the Secretary determines that 
                        preventing such publication--
                                    (I) is in the national security 
                                interest of the United States; or
                                    (II) protects the privacy interests 
                                of individuals exposed to toxic 
                                substances.
                    (F) Subpoena authority.--The Advisory Board may 
                require by subpoena the attendance and testimony of 
                witnesses necessary to consider claims of exposure to 
                toxic substances under this paragraph.
                    (G) Cooperation of federal agencies.--The head of 
                each relevant Federal agency, including the 
                Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 
                shall cooperate fully with the Advisory Board for 
                purposes of considering claims of exposure to toxic 
                substances under this paragraph.
    (d) Meetings.--The Advisory Board shall meet at the call of the 
Chair, but not less frequently than semiannually.
    (e) Compensation.--
            (1) In general.--The members of the Advisory Board shall 
        serve without compensation.
            (2) Travel expenses.--The members of the Advisory Board 
        shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of 
        subsistence, at rates authorized for employees of agencies 
        under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States 
        Code, while away from their homes or regular places of business 
        in the performance of services for the Advisory Board.
    (f) Personnel.--
            (1) In general.--The Chairperson may, without regard to the 
        civil service laws and regulations, appoint an executive 
        director of the Advisory Board, who shall be a civilian 
        employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and such other 
        personnel as may be necessary to enable the Advisory Board to 
        perform its duties.
            (2) Approval.--The appointment of an executive director 
        under paragraph (1) shall be subject to approval by the 
        Advisory Board.
            (3) Compensation.--The Chairperson may fix the compensation 
        of the executive director and other personnel without regard to 
        the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 
        of title 5, United States Code, except that the rate of pay for 
        the executive director and other personnel may not exceed the 
        rate payable for level V of the Executive Schedule under 
        section 5316 of such title.

SEC. 5. DECLASSIFICATION BY DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE OF CERTAIN INCIDENTS 
              OF EXPOSURE OF MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES TO TOXIC 
              SUBSTANCES.

    (a) In General.--The Secretary of Defense may declassify documents 
related to any known incident in which not less than 100 members of the 
Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at 
least one case of a disability that a member of the medical profession 
has determined to be associated with that toxic substance.
    (b) Limitation.--The declassification authorized by subsection (a) 
shall be limited to information necessary for an individual who was 
potentially exposed to a toxic substance to determine the following:
            (1) Whether that individual was exposed to that toxic 
        substance.
            (2) The potential severity of the exposure of that 
        individual to that toxic substance.
            (3) Any potential health conditions that may have resulted 
        from exposure to that toxic substance.
    (c) Exception.--The Secretary of Defense is not required to 
declassify documents if the Secretary determines that declassification 
of those documents would materially and immediately threaten the 
security of the United States.

SEC. 6. NATIONAL OUTREACH CAMPAIGN ON POTENTIAL LONG-TERM HEALTH 
              EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE TO TOXIC SUBSTANCES BY MEMBERS OF THE 
              ARMED FORCES AND THEIR DESCENDANTS.

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of Health and 
Human Services, and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly conduct a 
national outreach and education campaign directed towards members of 
the Armed Forces, veterans, and their family members to communicate the 
following information:
            (1) Information on--
                    (A) incidents of exposure of members of the Armed 
                Forces to toxic substances;
                    (B) health conditions resulting from such exposure; 
                and
                    (C) the potential long-term effects of such 
                exposure on the individuals exposed to those substances 
                and the descendants of those individuals.
            (2) Information on the National Center established under 
        section 3 of this Act for individuals eligible to participate 
        in studies conducted at the National Center.
                                 <all>