Brown Presses VA on Veterans Exposed to Toxic Combustion Stoves – The Tribune
WASHINGTON, DC – During a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last week, titled “Honoring Our Promise to Address the Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, pressed Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on how VA can better provide health care to veterans exposed to hot spots and concerns about the growing backlog of veterans’ disability claims.
Brown worked on the issue in Congress to help veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, introducing the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act. An amended version of Heath’s Bill was included in the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act 2021.
“I met the first Agent Orange veteran [decades ago…] and it’s hard to believe the military didn’t know more about what these fire pits were doing when they were burning batteries, tires and medical waste,” Brown said.
In February, the Senate unanimously passed the Burn Pit Veterans Health Care Act, which will expand access to health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances, establish a new process by which VA will determine future presumptive conditions and provide overdue benefits to thousands of drug addicts. exposed veterans who have long been ignored or forgotten.
Danielle Robinson attended the hearing. She is the widow of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a Central Ohio veteran who died in 2020 at age 39 of lung cancer after being exposed to burns while on a year-long deployment. in Iraq in 2006. Danielle was accompanied by her daughter, Brielle, and Brielle’s grandmother, Susan Zeier, an activist who works to raise awareness of the issue. Tim Hauser, a Gulf War veteran from Twinsburg, who was exposed to toxic burning stoves while serving overseas was also in the audience, as were other Ohio veterans and advocates .
During the hearing, Brown pressed McDonough on his testimony that Title 1 would cost approximately $534 million over ten years for personnel and equipment and questioned the Secretary about his plans to provide health care to veterans exposed to combustion fireplaces.
“He hires people. It’s also about making sure that we have facilities that we can insure ourselves in – if we really get an additional one and a half million to two million registrants who come to us for care, that we have facilities in which we can process them. And so, it’s just health care account management, which is if we have more patients, we need more investment to care for those patients,” McDonough said.
Brown also raised concerns with McDonough about the possible increase in the backlog of disability claims.
“It is true that any veteran can file a claim about their condition today, and that claim would be adjudicated. But we have to work on each of the parts of the claim,” McDonough said. “Most importantly, though, the attention to the issue will remind people, like those great Ohioans you just talked about, that they have a claim to the United States government, so they will come forward. .”