Peoria veteran says burn pit legislation a step in the right direction

President Joe Biden is set to sign a burn pit bill to help veterans on Monday but a Peoria veteran says more needs to be done.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:09 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — It was 52 years ago when the U.S. military sent Lou Ann Huskisson a letter she won’t forget. “When I was 17, I got a draft notice because my name is Lou,” she laughed. Clearly, it was a mistake. But in 1974, Huskisson decided to enlist in the Navy. She was sent to the island of Okinawa. It was there she believes she was exposed to the toxin Agent Orange. As a result, she now suffers from a number of illnesses. “The lung cancer I’ve had for a year, the diabetes for 10 to 15 years,” she said.

On Tuesday, after relentless pressure from veterans and advocates camped at the Capitol, the Senate passed the bill. “The Congress just passed the PACT act, which is the burn pit legislation,” President Joe Biden said. “Finally, finally, finally were going to do justice to those we lost.” The law will not only expand benefits for modern military members, it will also compensate more Vietnam-era veterans suffering from diseases linked to Agent Orange.

Unfortunately, the bill won’t help Huskisson personally. Okinawa is not one of the regions recognized, though some service members that were on the island have been awarded toxin-exposure-related benefits. “It doesn’t go far enough. I’m glad the bill got passed, because of those who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia,” she said. “Those guys deserve it.” She’s hopeful it will help many of the veterans she helps as a volunteer service officer for Vietnam Veterans of America. She said her office has over 6,000 files, many claims that have been denied and appealed for years, and should now be approved.