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Bipartisan Astronaut Health Bill Passes Out of Committee

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a markup of several bills, one of those bills was H.R. 6076, the “To Research, Evaluate, Assess, and Treat Astronauts Act” (TREAT Astronauts Act). The legislation would provide NASA with statutory authority to perform monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment for former astronauts for medical or psychological conditions that the NASA Administrator deems to be associated or potentially associated with human spaceflight. In addition, under the program established in the bill, NASA would be able to acquire data from a larger set of participants and the data acquired on former astronauts would be more comprehensive. The bill passed out of Committee by voice vote.

Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) is an original cosponsor of the bill. She offered an amendment to strengthen the bill that was accepted. Her statement on the bill and her amendment is below.

“Today, we are continuing our bipartisan efforts to further our goals for space exploration.  The House-passed, bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2015 set the long-term goal of sending humans to the surface of Mars.  The TREAT Astronauts Act puts in place an important element in achieving this goal.  

“I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and your staff for working together to achieve bipartisan consensus on this bill.  I know we both want to do the right thing for the health of our former and future astronauts, and I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of this Act to provide for monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of former astronauts as well as management astronauts.     

“Our astronauts are heroes.  They have served this nation in the face of extreme risks.  Some of those risks involve the potential for medical conditions that may not reveal themselves for years or even decades after an astronaut’s service.  It is our responsibility to ensure that we, as a nation, acknowledge the risks that these heroes have taken and, in return, provide our astronauts with the medical monitoring and treatment they need.

“It is also our responsibility, as a nation, to mitigate the risks for future NASA explorers, especially as we set in place the systems and missions to prepare the way for human exploration of Mars.  Such risk mitigation requires data about astronauts’ medical and psychological health.

“This amendment strengthens the base bill by enabling earlier initiation of the monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment program, ensuring the continued availability of astronaut healthcare surveillance, and providing for a study on any privacy or legal issues related to sharing data sharing. 

“Specifically, it reduces the time period from 90 days to 30 days for NASA’s arrangement of a required independent cost estimate, eliminates a timeline for delivery of the independent cost estimate, and reduces from 90 days to 30 days the time period before NASA can initiate the program after transmitting the cost estimate to this Committee and to the Senate Commerce Committee. 

“My amendment also ensures that former astronauts who do not elect to participate in the expanded monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment program under this Act will continue to have the opportunity to participate, on a voluntary basis, in the existing lifetime surveillance of astronaut health program--a baseline monitoring and data collection activity. 

“Mr. Chairman, as we expand the amount of data collected on former astronaut health, it is important that we place a priority on ensuring the privacy of the data.  This amendment directs the Administrator to provide a report on any potential privacy or legal issues associated with sharing the data collected under this program beyond the Federal government.  

“I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.”

Please visit our website: http://democrats.science.house.gov

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