Biden signs two new bills to help veterans burn

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President Biden on Monday signed two bills that could help tens of thousands of veterans who claim to have fallen ill after being exposed to hot spots.

The pair of bills, included in the $ 768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2022, will bring sweeping reform to the military’s use of fireplaces, expand a registry military personnel exposed to the raw waste incineration method while serving overseas and will improve medical training for health care providers.

“My bills, the DOD Burn Pits Health Provider Training Act and the Burn Pit Registry Expansion Act, becoming law is a big step forward in our fight to ensure that our veterans affected by toxic burn exposure receive the care they need. they deserve, ”said representative Raul Ruiz. , D-Calif., A doctor who drafted the two bills, told Fox News.

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“These much-needed bills will help address the urgent public health crisis facing our veterans by expanding the Burn Pit registry to a whole new group of veterans and helping medics quickly identify military personnel to risk.

“As these new laws come into effect, I will continue to fight to ensure that veterans and military members of our country exposed to burns homes get them the timely care they need and put an end once and for all. the use of burn sites. “

US Army soldiers watch trash burn in a burn pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah, Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 2013 (REUTERS / Andrew Burton)

The two bills enacted include the Department of Defense (DoD) Burn Home Health Care Provider Training Act (HR 4397), which will require the Department of Defense to implement a Mandatory training for all medical providers working for the department on the potential health effects of burn sites. . The Burn Pit Registry Expansion Act (HR 4400) will require the DoD and the Veterans Administration to expand their registry to include service members who were stationed in Egypt and Syria.

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Both bills are expected to come into force immediately, with the Provider Training Act helping train doctors to spot early signs of toxic exposure with the goal of providing care more quickly. Many veterans who have been exposed to burn sites say their doctors often struggled to determine how sick otherwise healthy young service members without a family history of cancer were.

“A decade ago, we went to VA health facilities, and they just shrugged their shoulders,” Rosie López-Torres, founder of an advocacy group. Burn the Pits 360Fox News said. Both bills were the result in part of his organization’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill over the past decade.

López-Torres adds that more needs to be done to ensure that all military personnel get the help they need.

“We are proud to see these bills become law,” she said, “But they need to expand the list of locations. We have a lot of military personnel who say they are still working near burn sites. active and wonder why they can’t be on the registry. “

Biden has publicly stated that he believes his son Beau’s terminal cancer resulted from exposure to burn foci while serving in the US military in Iraq. This last Veterans Day, the Biden administration issued a statement announcing actions to develop and test a model to link to diseases developed after exposure to toxins released into the air as plumes of smoke rose from combustion pits. The initiative aims to provide veterans who have been exposed to fireplaces with long-denied benefits.

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“We will be working with Congress – Republicans and Democrats together – to make sure our veterans receive the world-class benefits they’ve earned and meet the sacred needs – the specific – specific care that each individual needs. President Biden said during a public address at Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day. “This means expanding the presumed conditions of exposure to toxic substances and particulates, including Agent Orange and combustion pits.

“We will continue to push on this front to be more agile and responsive,” he added. “We are reviewing all data and evidence to determine additional suspected conditions that ensure our veterans don’t have to wait to get the care they need.”

López-Torres says she would like Biden to do more to include the 23 presumed conditions associated with exposure to fireplaces.

“They’re spooning us out little by little, and that’s not good,” she said. “We don’t have time to wait. People are dying.”

The Fox News Investigative Unit has reported extensively on fears that veterans fell ill after being exposed to fumes from burning fireplaces. Many soldiers said the pits were a crude incineration method in which every piece of waste was burned, including plastics, batteries, household appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste.

Everything from food packaging to medical waste has been dumped in numerous combustion pits used as rubbish heaps in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everything from food packaging to medical waste has been dumped in numerous combustion pits used as rubbish heaps in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Courtesy of Dan Brewer)

Objects were often set on fire with jet fuel as an accelerator. The pits burned over 1,000 different chemical compounds day and night. Most of the soldiers inhaled toxic fumes without protection. According to a registry created by the VA, more than 200,000 vets said the exposure made them sick, but the department refused help to many of them.

Many veterans and their families said their experience trying to get help with health care coverage left them feeling the federal government viewed them with doubt and suspicion.

The new laws are the latest advancements in a push to make exposure to fireplaces a presumed condition by the VA when it comes to treating disabilities.

The presumptive benefits bill was originally introduced in September last year, but was reintroduced in March with updated criteria for presumptive care.

To simplify eligibility, the bill favors veterans with relevant service medals received after their tour of duty instead of documentation that they have served a minimum number of days, a crucial step, supporters say. law Project. Listing their service as a presumptive condition will help provide needed care for millions of veterans.

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“These are the men and women who sacrificed everything for our country, and now they are sacrificing their lives because of illnesses caused by their exposure that they had no say in being parked next door. of a burning focus, ”Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., co-sponsor of the bill, told Fox News in April. “We know that burns are deadly. That is why they are banned in the United States.”

“The epidemiology already exists for most of these diseases because we know that the nature of what is burned in the combustion pit is the same as that which was burned on September 11 and the weeks and months on the stack that followed. And there’s a ton of work being done to show the causal link with all the research that has been done over the past 15 years. “