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KNAU and Arizona News

Senate passes bipartisan bill expanding VA health care to veterans exposed to toxins and burn pits

Burn Pit
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In many post-9/11 combat areas, the U.S. military disposed of trash, human waste and other items by burning them in massive fires. Many veterans later developed respiratory illnesses, rare cancers and other diseases linked to the toxic smoke.

The Senate today voted to pass bipartisan legislation to expand VA health care eligibility for generations of veterans exposed to toxic substances and burn pits. The bill is backed by Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, a Gulf War veteran.

A press release from Senator Kelly’s office outlines the main components of the plan, including expanded VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxins.

It also adds 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension, and creates a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure.

Also included in the bill is strengthened federal research on toxic exposure, improvement of VA resources and training for veterans exposed to toxins, and investments in VA claims processing, workforce and health care facilities.

It’s expected to bring about one of the largest expansions in health care benefits in VA history.