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Kaine, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Mitigate Blast Overpressure and Protect Servicemembers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined twelve of his colleagues, led by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) and U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), in introducing the Blast Overpressure Safety Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would direct the Department of Defense (DOD) to enact new measures to help mitigate and protect servicemembers from blast overpressure and enhance efforts to treat veterans and servicemembers with injuries relating to it.

“The high rate of traumatic brain injuries among military personnel is deeply concerning,” said Kaine. “This critical legislation would take important steps in protecting servicemembers from blast overpressure and expanding access to treatment for impacted veterans and servicemembers. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to do all that I can to protect and support those who serve our country.”

Kaine has been vocal about the need to protect servicemembers from long-term exposure to explosive weapons—including the firing of one’s own weapons—which is the most common cause of brain injury for servicemembers with mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI). During just three months in 2023, DOD provided treatment to servicemembers nearly 50,000 times for TBI. Despite this, servicemembers continue to train with weapons with unsafe blast levels. 

Specifically, the Blast Overpressure Safety Act would help minimize exposure to unsafe blast levels by: 

  • Mandating regular neurocognitive assessments over a servicemember’s career, including a baseline neurocognitive assessment before training.
  • Creating blast overpressure exposure and TBI logs for all service members, which will be captured in their individual longitudinal exposure records.
  • Increasing transparency regarding blast overpressure safety in the weapons acquisition process. The legislation would require DOD to consider the minimization of blast overpressure during the acquisition process, require contracting entities to provide blast overpressure safety data, and publish blast overpressure safety data for weapons systems and its plans to better protect servicemembers from in-use weapons systems.
  • Improving data on concussive and subconcussive brain injuries servicemembers sustain. This includes information on discharges related to and medical providers trained in these injuries, as well as efforts with allies and partners to better address these injuries.  
  • Enhancing efforts to mitigate exposure and help servicemembers access care. This includes retaliation protections for those who seek care; modifying existing weapons system to reduce blast exposure; updating and making publicly available blast overpressure thresholds and creating a waiver system for exceeding these thresholds; training high-risk servicemembers to help them recognize exposure symptoms and creating strategies to mitigate their risk; and expanding the types of technologies in the Warfighter Brain Health Initiative pilot blast monitoring program.
  • Supporting servicemember treatment by establishing a Special Operations Comprehensive Brain Health and Trauma program, making the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICOE) a program of record and requiring DOD to provide childcare services to those seeking treatment there, and mandating training for medical and training personnel on blast overpressure, exposure and TBI.
  • Mandating the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review on DOD efforts to address blast exposure, protect servicemembers from retaliation, and identify the most at-risk military occupational specialties.
  • Implementing DOD Inspector General (IG) recommendations from a 2023 report that found that DOD does not consistently implement policies and procedures to determine the care servicemembers with TBI need.
  • Requiring a report on the efforts of the DOD to share and coordinate on blast injury and subconcussive and concussive brain injury research efforts with allies and partners of the United States.

Full text of the legislation is available here.