Helping veterans exposed to toxic burn pits


NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 10: The exterior of the Veterans Affairs Hospital is seen November 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The White House says it’s taking action to help veterans deal with a range of deadly conditions as potentially thousands face ongoing health issues connected to toxic burn pits.

Burn pits were commonly used on U.S. bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan to incinerate waste. Now, some medical experts and the White House believe there could be a link between those burn pits and a number of rare, deadly cancers

“Our nation makes them a simple promise,” U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said. “If you take care of us, we’ll take care of you. If you fight for us, we’ll fight for you. If you serve us, we’ll serve you when you come home.”

Military veterans exposed to toxic chemicals on deployment will soon have access to expanded VA resources. The VA plans to add a list of presumptive conditions that may be caused by the exposure.

The administration is also creating a new model to establish links between rare cancers and toxic exposure by veterans.

Starting in 2022, the VA will create a dedicated call center and a list of providers to deal exclusively with veterans who were exposed. The new approach will also expand the eligibility period to receive free VA benefits to those who deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.

President Joe Biden has said he believes exposure to burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau, who served in Iraq. Biden says the country owes veterans the care and treatment for conditions that may have been caused during deployments.

“We’re gonna keep pushing on this front to be more nimble and responsive, reviewing all the data and evidence to determine additional presumptive conditions that make sure our veterans don’t have to wait to get the care they need,” Biden said.

The new benefits don’t just apply to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, it also extends to any U.S. service member who could have been exposed to chemicals during their deployment. For example, that could include a Vietnam veteran who is exposed to a substance such as Agent Orange.

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