UPDATE 3:47 p.m.: Subcommittee adjourned, overwhelming bipartisan disappointment that representatives from the Department of Defense did not attend.
UPDATE 2:09 p.m.: California Democrat U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, ranking member: "Our veterans need our help now."
UPDATE 2:06 p.m.: Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, subcommittee chairman: "I'm disappointed representatives of the Department of Defense declined to be here today."
UPDATE 2 p.m.: The Congressional VA Subcommittee on Health hearing has begun. Watch live at www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1jKDztSrq8.
UPDATE 1:23 p.m.: Belton resident Diane Slape met with members of U.S. Rep. John Carter's office, R-Austin, who are "certain the Judge will be highly interested in the issues being that his constituent base is so largely military," Slape said.
Carter's office has contacted the staffers of the committee members on the Congressional VA Subcommittee on Health, who intend to keep in constant contact with Slape.
UPDATE 11:48 a.m.: The Congressional VA Subcommittee on Health hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Central. If you are having trouble finding the live stream on Facebook, you can watch it live at www.youtube.com/user/HouseVetsAffairs.
In a press briefing this morning outside of Congress, U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, California — a physician — had this to say about veterans' exposure to open burn pits:
"If you ask if there is a severe enough consequence, as those young veterans who were young and healthy enough to fight in our wars who are coming back suffering from diseases and are now permanently disabled; ask those who have died from multiple types of cancer if this is severe enough. Just ask the family, the husband and children, of Jennifer Kempner, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 39 with no other risk factors other than being exposed to burn pits, if that is severe enough. Ask the family of Amanda Downing, who died of adrenal cancer at the age of 24, if that outcome is severe enough. So the answer is yes: We have a high enough suspicion, with a severe enough outcome, and we must act now on that suspicion."
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Association and the nonprofit Burn Pits 360 are in Washington, D.C., today to speak with members of Congress on the health effects of exposure to open burn pits in the Southwest Asia theater at a Congressional Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing.
Belton resident Diane Slape, whose husband, Frederick T. Slape, died of cancer she believes to be caused by his exposure to burn pits while deployed, is on Capitol Hill today with Burn Pits 360 to give her testimony to as many federal lawmakers as possible.
Multiple statements are expected to be given by the veteran organizations and nonprofits, to include the official statement for record of Le Roy Torres, a retired Army captain and co-founder of Burn Pits 360, which is available online at http://www.burnpits360.org/upload/Congressional%20Statement%20For%20Record.pdf.
It reads in part, "Since returning from Iraq, I have had over 250 medical visits and was hospitalized immediately upon returning from the war. In November 2010, I was diagnosed with a debilitating lung condition (constrictive bronchiolitis) following a lung biopsy at Vanderbilt University. My medical doctors determined last month that I have toxic brain injury due to exposure to toxins, likely resulting from my burn pits exposures in Iraq."
To follow the progress at the Capitol you can visit the Burn Pits 360 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BurnPits360/. The organization will live-stream the hearing, along with other meetings with individual members of Congress.
This story will be updated throughout the day.
Read more about the story of Belton resident Diane Slape here: http://kdhnews.com/military/family-blames-open-burn-pits-in-southwest-asia-in-death/article_1bc2ff7c-66a0-11e8-be83-03751da96cb6.html
Want to know more about burn pits and how to sign up for the Department of Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry? http://kdhnews.com/military/airborne-hazards-and-open-burn-pit-registry-available-for-veterans/article_e98f502e-5a14-11e8-bfd9-17f8c8e3e73d.html