Help veterans affected by burn pits

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, January 16, 2020

To the editor:

I was stationed at Camp Victory in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Most mornings, depending on wind direction, I woke up to a thick fog of blue smoke that immediately irritated my throat and eyes. Everyone knew there were burn pits nearby. I am having breathing difficulties now that I suspect may be attributed to almost one year of exposure to burn pits. Please support this bill that makes it easier for vets to get VA benefits they need due to the problems created by these burn pits.

I am requesting your support as a co-sponsor to S.2950, the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act.

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The number of burn pits operating in overseas conflict zones exceeded 230 at the height of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, exposing tens of thousands of troops and contractors to toxic contaminants. While the sheer number of open burn pits has been reduced, it will be no consolation to troops adversely and permanently affected.

Reserve Component servicemembers and their families wrestle with the overwhelming health care effects of open burn pits, and they should be able to seek care from VA. However, they have had difficulty showing service connection because their medical records were never kept, were lost, or were destroyed. To further complicate the issue, National Guard and Reserve members have to prove they performed duty near burn pits, but their orders don’t provide exact locations of their duties for national security purposes.

By cosponsoring this bill, you will help your constituents, whether they are active duty or Reserve Component, have on record the location where they were exposed to toxins. The bill will not remove the required medical documentation, but at least the location of exposure will now be verified and documented by DoD.

Kenneth Lewis