RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The U.S. Senate has passed bipartisan legislation to expand health care coverage to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. Yet some feel it doesn’t go far enough.
Burn pits are a common way for the military to get rid of human waste, chemicals, and hazardous materials in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Virginia veterans like Master Sergeant Brian Graves, who flew missions over the Middle East for the U.S. Air Force, have long claimed the toxic smoke made them sick.
“I kept getting bronchitis over and over again,” Graves said in a video he shared with the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He said he lives with breathing problems and illness.
“We have not done a very complete job of making sure those veterans get the health care they deserve,” said Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
Warner supported the new bill that would expand Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs health care coverage for separating troops from five years after discharge to ten years. The bill also mandates more screenings of patients for toxic exposure.
“They have a solemn promise from the United States that their health is going to get taken care of,” Warner said.
However, some veterans groups say no veteran should be denied care regardless of if they served 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
John Feal, President of the Fealgood Foundation and a national advocate for burn pit benefits took to Twitter to blast the Senate, saying:
“@JohnFeal2 @johnfeal2 @SenatorTester & @JerryMoran you are putting a band aid on a open sucking chest wound with your bullshit legislation. These men and woman need better, deserve better, earned better and you failed them! I will dedicate my life to ensure you fail again!”
The House will take up the bill before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk. There also is another bill being considered by lawmakers in the House, the “Honoring our PACT Act.” Fealgood believes it can do more to help veterans.