Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is pushing a bill in Congress to help veterans who might have been harmed by toxic emissions during deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The military used open-air burn pits to dispose of waste, such as tires, medical waste, munitions, petroleum and lubricant products, which created toxic fumes potentially affecting service members. The military issued no guidelines on burning garbage until 2011.
Veterans sued military contractor KBR over the burn pit exposure, but lost in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court this month declined to hear their appeal.
Brown introduced his legislation, called the “Burn Pit Accountability Act,” in January. The bill aims to document exposure and track the effects of the emissions on the veterans to enable them to get the help previous generations were denied.
“We want to make sure that veterans don’t have to go through—to get compensation, if it gets to that here, the way that Vietnam vets had to wait with Agent Orange,” Brown says. “It’s a very important public health issue and it’s what we owe our men and women in uniform.”
Brown says as many as 3.7 million military members could have been exposed. So far, the Veterans Affairs registry has logged 160,000 potentially exposed veterans.
The senator, who's currently mulling a presidential run, requested a hearing of his bill by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.