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Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits During Military Service Hopefully Receive Aid

Two senators on the Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee publicized that a bipartisan deal was reached in May. The agreement addresses the aid to veterans who survived burn pit exposures during their military service. 

Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) released a joint statement regarding the chronic illnesses veterans are living with due to past exposures. “Today, we’re taking necessary steps to right this wrong with our proposal that’ll provide veterans and their families with the health care and benefits they have earned and deserve.” This long-sought-after agreement would unite the two parties and be a massive victory for the committee.

Burn pits burn trash, munitions, hazardous materials, and chemical compounds at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposure to toxic fumes can cause cancer, lung diseases, and respiratory issues. Burn pits were put in retirement in 2010; however, these burn pits released toxins into the air near military bases until then. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stated that the toxins could cause various adverse health conditions. The advocacy organization released a survey in 2020 to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America that illustrated that 86 percent of participants were exposed to burn pits and other toxins. And according to Senator Moran, since 2011, the VA has denied 70% of veterans’ burn pit claims. 

Senators Testor and Moran’s Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 is named after Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson who died in 2020 from toxic exposure related to military service. The act is an amended version of the Honoring Our PACT Act passed by the House earlier this year. 

The revised bill is a highly comprehensive toxic exposure conglomeration – one of the most well-detailed veterans packages in history. The key Senators are working closely with House members who were able to pass the related bill in the House. The “Honoring our PACT Act” was supported by the majority of Democrats; additionally, 34 Republics joined in support to lead to the bill’s passage.

The Senate’s legislation would provide health care resources and coverage to up to 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans. It also adds 23 conditions relating to burn pits to the VA’s list of illnesses contracted due to military service. This detail removes the burden from veterans to prove their experiences of toxic exposure following military service. 

The bill suggests that investments must be made in VA health care facilities, strengthening the department and federal research. A key advantage of the Senate’s bill is connecting the toxic exposure illnesses to military service. This advantage would allow a simple process for affected veterans to receive care and recognition from the VA.

Before the bill passes, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough highlighted two provisions the VA wants to finalize: ensuring the approval process for aid is timely and allowing for veterans to provide less evidence of their condition to receive benefits. 

On the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Our veterans need it, they deserve it, and we have a moral obligation to take care of those who have sacrificed so much for us.” 

Our New York disability lawyers can assist you with any questions regarding veterans’ disability benefits. Call us at 855-208-7783 or complete an online intake form to schedule a free initial consultation today. We serve Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and more.

 

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