Bipartisan push to help sick veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

President Joe Biden is promising to help veterans impacted.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 9:28 AM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Danielle Robinson of Ohio says the first symptom that her late husband Heath was seriously ill was uncontrollable nose bleeds. “It got so bad that the lining of his nasal passage started deteriorating,” she said.

It wasn’t until a year later in 2017 when Heath was diagnosed with lung cancer. His doctors suggested his condition was from breathing in toxic fumes from football sized waste areas in war zones known as burn pits.

Heath, an army medic with the Ohio National Guard, had served tours in both Kosovo and Iraq.

Now, there’s an increased push to help veterans exposed to toxic substances. “We’re expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers,” said President Joe Biden.

Biden announced the V.A.’s expansion of treating veterans suffering from burn pit exposure during his State of the Union speech earlier this month.

Mrs. Robinson attended as Biden’s guest. A few days after the president’s address, the bipartisan Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 passed the House.

Part of the legislation is the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act. It was named in Heath’s honor and introduced in the House by Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan.

Ryan says the bill is geared towards improving healthcare access for veterans impacted.

A separate version was cosponsored in the Senate by North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis. The legislation extends coverage for veterans who didn’t enroll in receiving V.A. care.

Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is a co-sponsor. “There’s a lot of responsibility on the military on this,’ said Brown. “They knew better than exposing these soldiers to burn pits.” According to the legislation, the Senate bill extends the eligibility period for health care of combat veterans exposed to toxic substances to those who served after September 11th.

With two separate bills, both chambers must now decide on how they want to move forward with legislation.

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