U.S. Senate passes bill to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits -Breaking
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – U.S. Marines dump trash into a pit during a convoy from Patrol Base Sre Kalad, Khan Neshin District in Afghanistan on March 3, 2012. Picture taken March 3, 2012. Cpl. Cpl. Marines/Hand
By Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A major bill to expand health care for vets exposed to toxic military burning pits in Iraq or Afghanistan was passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday. Senators lauded their bipartisan efforts on one issue on which they could find common ground.
This bill expands and eases the access to disability and health benefits for veterans who have been exposed to harmful smoke from burn pits at foreign bases by the U.S. military until the middle of 2010.
The bill, if it is passed into law would be estimated to cost $180 billion in the first four year. Nearly 3.5 million veterans would be able to benefit from the bill. They were exposed to toxic fumes in pits as big as football fields, sometimes as much as 10 times larger. Pits were used to dispose of plastic tires and batteries as well explosives, chemicals, and human feces.
“For too long, our nation’s veterans have faced an absurd indignity: They enlisted to serve our country, went abroad in good health, and came back home only to get sick from toxic exposure endured while in the line of duty,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Senate speech.
The Veterans Administration has rejected around 80% disability claims regarding burn pits, he stated. This is a personal issue for President Joe Biden. He believes that his son Beau died from brain cancer because of a burn pit in Iraq.
Many Servicemembers who returned from Afghanistan or Iraq were diagnosed with fatal illnesses, such as rare cancers and respiratory diseases. However, they often refused coverage and had to fight for their rights in court.
The cost of war cannot be fully paid after the war ends. Before the vote, Republican Senator Jerry Moran indicated that we are close to honoring the commitment made by American veterans and their family.
After the vote, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Gillian, who championed it in the Senate, stated that “This day our democracy is actually working.”
This bill expands coverage to include servicemembers who were exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam War.
This measure will now be sent to the House of Representatives to vote, before being signed into law by Biden.