Burn Pit Legislation: Veterans In a Race Against Time

Faye Higbee
burn pit legislation

The US House of Representatives passed bipartisan burn pit legislation at the end of February by a vote of 256-174. The Senate passed its own version also at the end of February. Now the two bills will have to go through the reconciliation process, where some believe the VA should take an incremental approach to the benefits to veterans exposed to them instead of the presumptive approach from the bill (the cost argument). The Honoring our PACT Act is about real people, not statistics on paper. (PACT –  Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics).  Since the Biden administration has spent our taxpayer money on things that have destroyed our economy, can we not pause that spending to deal with those who have fought for our nation before it is too late?

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Burn Pit Maladies Hit Home

I have worked with Tank, Rick Ferran, the Founder/Owner of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children since 2013. He is a good friend. But it shook me to learn that he was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (blood cancer). The doctor advised him that sometimes it takes 20 years before the symptoms of such a disease show in the bone marrow. After a convoluted routine with the paperwork he had at two different hospitals, Rick had to undergo surgery to take a sample of bone marrow, which he says was more painful than anything he’d ever imagined because they forgot to numb his back. The VA system is not always efficient, as we have written about many times before.

After he was sent home, the doctor’s office called him to say that he needed to be readmitted to the hospital as soon as possible. He has to be treated with three weeks of chemotherapy. If that doesn’t work, he will have to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is described as one of the most “lethal” of blood cancers. It causes around 10,000 deaths every year in the United States. And it snagged my friend because of burn pit exposure.

Rick is a US Marine Corps veteran, a single father of one daughter. No matter what anyone thinks of him personally, as a United States veteran who was exposed to the toxins in the burn pits, neither he nor any other service members should ever have issues with receiving benefits for service-related injuries or disease. And yet, in many cases, that’s exactly what happened to our veterans.

Rick Ferran in the Middle East during his Marine Corps deployment

The VA document for burn pits says that “Currently there is not enough medical or scientific information on potential for long term exposure to smoke from burn pits…”. Which is why the burn pit legislation will create a “presumptive” benefit for service members. If they have been exposed, it is presumed that their disease is due to that cause.

We need to ensure that the presumptive process created by this bill allows VA and future secretaries to act with transparency, efficiency and public participation for the benefit of veterans, not create additional administrative burdens that slow things down.

Secretary Denis McDonough

We’ve written about burn pits before:

For their part, Republican Senators are concerned about the $207 Billion price tag over the next 10 years, which is understandable given the runaway inflation in the US. VA Secretary McDonough thinks that they can come up with a plan to move more quickly to remove the backlog of 240,000 claims that have not been handled for at least 4 months. As the exposure to burn pits affects more and more veterans, the numbers of disease will only rise. Sen Schumer promises a vote soon, but gave no deadline. The Honoring Our PACT Act for burn pit legislation is vital to save lives.

You cannot be America first when you put veterans last.

Comedian Jon Stewart, advocate for burn pit veterans

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Featured photo: provided by Rick Ferran

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