The U. S. House of Representatives has passed a series of bills to help service members who say they suffered lasting lung injuries after being exposed to burning pits of garbage, metal and ammunition while stationed at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Democrat serving California’s 36th District, said the help is “long overdue” for what some are calling this generation’s Agent Orange.
“Even though those service members made it back without bodily harm, they are succumbing as delayed casualties of a war that was self-inflicted and so we cannot wait any longer and we need to find venues and vehicles to continue to bush the ball forward,” Ruiz said
The four pieces of legislation would expand the Burn Pits Registry, enhance medical training on the health effects of burn pits, increase reporting of burn pit exposure, and require a status update from the Department of Defense on all burn pits research.
The bills passed last month as part of the Defense bill, which is now in the Senate.
The U. S. Department of Veterans (VA) website said there is no evidence linking burn pit exposure to long-term illnesses. Still, the VA said it decides claims on a case-by-case basis and that it recently established the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence (AHBPCE) as part of its ongoing efforts to improve health care for Veterans.
Retired Army National Guard Major Michael Ray of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, said it took six years for the VA to approve his burn pit related injury claim. Ray and his wife, Kelly, said the approval happened after they hired someone to advocate for them.
Ray told NBC 5 Investigates the Burn Pits legislation passed by the House is a step in the right direction.
“I think this is a very exciting time for all of us,” Ray said. “There are many improvements that could be made and other things that will move us towards the VA finally recognizing the damage that was done to veterans by exposure to the burn pits.”