Members of nonprofit Burn Pits 360 joined veteran organizations such as the Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the nation’s capitol Thursday to testify about the devastating health effects veterans and service members link to their exposure to toxic airborne hazards and open burn pits while deployed to Southwest Asia.
The overwhelming response from members of the Congressional VA Subcommittee on Health, both Republican and Democratic, was disappointment that representatives of the Department of Defense did not attend. Representatives from the Department of Veteran Affairs, however, were on hand to brief the Congress members on the current status of the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry.
“This is a critical issue facing today’s veterans and service members, and it should be just as critical an issue for the VA,” said subcommittee chairman U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican from Florida. “There are more questions than there are answers on exposure to burn pits.”
U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, a California Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee, agreed.
“I share the concerns of the (veterans service officers) that testified today that our government needs to do more to address the burn pit exposure experienced by our veterans and make sure we understand its long-term effects. Every era of veterans has experienced some type of environmental, radiological, chemical, or biological hazard while on the battlefield, and it’s our country’s duty to make sure we have the research and tools in place to address it,” she said. “The VA and Department of Defense must work together with clinicians and investigators to identify all veterans who may have been exposed to airborne hazards. This will ensure that VA is capturing much-needed data and that veterans receive advanced clinical care through expertly prepared treatment plans.”
Though not given the opportunity to testify during the subcommittee hearing on burn pits, Belton resident Diane Slape did have the opportunity to meet with the staff of U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Austin, whose district includes Fort Hood.
“They have contacted all the staffers of the (Congressional subcommittee) members and I will be in constant touch,” said Slape, whose husband, retired Sgt. 1st Class Frederick T. Slape, died of cancer she believed was related to his exposure to burn pits in 2015.
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