Lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would make it easier for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic chemicals to receive treatment.
The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and other Toxins Act will ensure no veteran is left behind when they return home from service. Comedian Jon Stewart joined lawmakers to unveil the legislation, which calls out a failure to provide compensation and care to veterans exposed to burn pits while serving the country.
“Helping those who protected us in harms way 24/7,” Stewart said “If we can’t do that, we fail as human beings.”
Burn pits were used on military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn waste. As a result, some service members are being diagnosed, and dying, of cancer.
“The consequence of us prosecuting a 20 year war is this,” said John Feal, 9/11 first responder and advocate. “You can’t line item veto it because you think the consequence is too high.”
The bill would provide health care to as many as 3.5 million veterans, believed to have been exposed. Lawmakers say the burden of proof is often placed on the shoulders of sick veterans and in turn, they are denied services.
“The most important is presumption of service related illnesses and the more robust you can make that list, the better its going to be for our veterans who are suffering,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.
New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan is a member of the senate committee on Veterans Affairs and helped advance the bipartisan legislation.
“Service members know better than anyone about the cost of war, and when they return home, we must provide these brave men and women with the care that they need to address any service-related injuries or illnesses.”