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U.S. House to vote this week on bill to help veterans who were exposed to burn pits

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Posted at 12:30 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 18:32:43-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on Thursday on a bill to help provide medical care to military veterans who've been exposed to toxic burn pits.

The Honoring Our Pact Act would help veterans streamline their care and receive VA medical benefits.

Currently, the veterans say they face an uphill battle proving respiratory issues they now experience were the result of exposures to burn pits.

Members of the military burned trash and other items in burn pits at overseas bases, particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Last year, News 3 spoke with a retired Air Force Major Sergeant who was exposed to burn pits during deployments in the early to mid-2000s.

"Every morning, I wake up my chest is tight and my throat is ... closed up," Brian Graves said.

The bill would help take the burden of proof off of veterans, giving them more presumption.

"We’ve heard so many stories. We’ve heard it from veterans themselves, from surviving family members," Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

Comedian John Stewart has become a vocal advocate for the veterans.

"The learning curve of how we treat our veterans when they come home from war is so painfully slow. The pace is unacceptable, and you feel it today, man – hope," he said.

In addition, the VA has proposed adding more types of respiratory cancers to the presumed service-connected list.

"The VA is pioneering new ways of linking toxic exposures to diseases, already helping more veterans get benefits. And tonight, I’m announcing we're expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers," President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

If the Honoring Our Pact act passes, it will head to the Senate.

Graves thinks it's a step in the right direction.

"I was ecstatic. I was given a sense of hope in how this is gaining so much traction," he said. "This is momentum. This is moving forward. This is giving us hope we can get the care that we've earned."