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Senator Tillis Pleads for Congressional Action To Protect Troops From Toxic Conditions

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis spoke last week on the dangers of burn puts at military sites, specifically sites designed for the open-air combustion of waste. In a discussion with the Washington Post, Tillis advocated for further attention and support when it comes to veterans who have been exposed to toxic conditions.

In a comparison to Vietnam, Tillis noted that it took decades to get support for those veterans, a problem that he says is unaffordable in the case of the more recent wars.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee himself, Tillis argued for the collaboration of Congress, the Department of Defense, and the VA on the issue. “This should never be about money,” Tillis said. “This should be about providing care to service members and veterans.”

At this point, the Department of Veterans Affairs have stood by findings that show no evidence of long-term health problems due to burn pit exposure. These studies are not universally agreed on by any means. Last year, McClatchyDC reported that veterans saw a spike in several types of cancer including urinary, prostate, liver, and blood during the past two decades of war. Each category of cancer increased by 61%, 23%, 96%, 18%, respectively.

Veterans, their families, lawmakers, and advocates attribute these staggering figures to burn pit exposure. More than 200,000 veterans have reported health issues as a result of exposure. Tillis emphasized better tracking and treatment for those who may have been exposed to toxins. “I want to get to a point where we have the data to predict a risk before the soldier, the serviceman, or the veteran, would ever even expect that they are at risk,” he said. Tillis also recommended that an independent agency should be created, designed specifically to understand the nature of exposures and provide guidance on how to move forward.

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