Help for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits: Congress says more needs to be done

Washington, D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress is taking another step toward helping veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz of California pushed to have measures addressing the military’s use of toxic burn pits in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Those measures will expand eligibility to those that serve in Egypt and Syria, enhance training about health effects, increase exposure reporting and help in the pursuit of alternatives to military burn pits.

Ruiz said while this is an important step, he is still working to get a comprehensive burn pit bill brought to the House floor. Ruiz said that bill would stop requiring veterans to prove their condition is a direct result of burn pits.

“[It would] put the burden of proof on the VA to prove that it wasn’t,” he said.

Ruiz is working with bipartisan senators, like Republican Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to get that portion funded. But progress has been stalled on Capitol Hill.

Washington Correspondent Kellie Meyer asked Rubio what’s getting in the way.

“Cost,” Rubio answered.

Ruiz said paying for war must include care of service members when they return.

“We need to provide them the care and benefits that they need. It is a commitment, it is a promise, it is the right thing to do so money should not be the issue when it comes to taking care of our veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to our country,” he said.

The House and the Senate have yet to vote on the measure.

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