Burn pits legislation nears finish line with House approval

Jul 13, 2022, 5:51 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2022, 4:07 am
FILE - An Afghan National Army pickup truck passes parked U.S. armored military vehicles, as smoke ...

FILE - An Afghan National Army pickup truck passes parked U.S. armored military vehicles, as smoke rises from a fire in a trash burn pit at Forward Operating Base Caferetta Nawzad, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 28, 2011. The House has approved a significant expansion of health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Simon Klingert, File)

(AP Photo/Simon Klingert, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Wednesday approved a significant expansion of health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 342-88 vote all but assures the measure will soon go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The Senate will have to vote again because of a technical fix the House made to the bill, but the essence of the bill is the same as the one senators overwhelmingly passed last month.

The bill contains two major components. First, it extends the grace period by which military veterans serving near burn pits can get medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their eligibility for VA care will double from five years after their discharge to 10 years.

Second, the legislation directs the VA to presume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit exposure, allowing veterans to obtain disability payments to compensate for their injury without having to prove the illness was a result of their service. Currently, more than 70% of disability claims related to burn pit exposure are denied by the VA due to lack of evidence, scientific data and information from the Defense Department.

“Think of the injustice of that,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the denial rate.

“Never again should veterans be made to suffer the indignity of fighting their own government,” added Rep. Mark Takano, the Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The bill is projected to increase federal spending by about $283 billion over 10 years and does not include offsetting spending cuts or tax increases to help pay for it. An earlier version the House approved in March cost more than $320 billion over 10 years, but senators trimmed some of the costs early on by phasing in certain benefit enhancements.

Those changes brought on board more House Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Bost, the ranking Republican on the veterans panel. He said the latest version also helps ensure the VA has the staff capacity to meet the additional demand it will be facing.

“It reflects bipartisan negotiations and input from VA, who is ultimately responsible for putting it into practice,” Bost said.

Still, many Republicans were not on board. All 88 no votes came from Republican lawmakers. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the concerns about toxic exposure are real and need to be addressed, but “we have to address the issue in this body of spending money we don’t have.”

“We’re undermining the sacrifice of the very veterans that we say that we are helping with this measure, by not doing it fiscally responsible,” Roy said.

The legislation would also benefit many Vietnam War-era veterans by including high blood pressure on the list of conditions presumed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange. And it would extend Agent Orange presumptions to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam and American Samoa.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a BNSF Railway Company train is parked in Seattle. The he...
Associated Press

Rail union: Plan for contract deal doesn’t address concerns

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The head of the nation’s largest railroad union says the report designed to help resolve stalled contract talks with freight railroads doesn’t do enough to address concerns about working conditions, even though it suggests 24% raises. The railroads indicated earlier this week that they were ready to hammer out a deal […]
16 hours ago
FILE - A Bed Bath & Beyond sign is shown in Mountain View, Calif., May 9, 2012. Shares in Bed Bath ...
Associated Press

Bed Bath & Beyond tumbles after influential investor exits

NEW YORK (AP) — The newest meme stock on Wall Street, Bed Bath & Beyond, is tumbling even further in after-hours trading Thursday after a high-profile activist investor confirmed that’s he’s bailed out of the stock. Ryan Cohen, the co-founder of Chewy who helped ignite a couple of meme stocks to jaw-dropping heights, confirmed in […]
16 hours ago
FILE - People shop at an Apple Store in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Apple disclosed serious s...
Associated Press

Apple warns of security flaw for iPhones, iPads and Macs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of these devices. The company said it is “aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.” Apple released two securityreports about the issue on Wednesday, although they didn’t […]
16 hours ago
The Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg leaves from court, Thursd...
Associated Press

What’s next for Trump Organization after Weisselberg plea?

NEW YORK (AP) — The numbers guy did the math: Allen Weisselberg — a longtime loyal lieutenant to Donald Trump — could have gotten years in prison if he went to trial and failed to beat tax evasion allegations. But if he agreed to testify in an upcoming trial of the former president’s company, he […]
16 hours ago
FILE - This June 23, 2011, file booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James "Wh...
Associated Press

Justice Dept.: 3 men charged in Whitey Bulger’s killing

BOSTON (AP) — Three men, including a Mafia hitman, have been charged in the killing of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger in a West Virginia prison, the Justice Department said Thursday. The charges against Fotios “Freddy” Geas, Paul J. DeCologero and Sean McKinnon come nearly four years after Bulger’s killing, which raised questions […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Opera tenor Placido Domingo attends an awards ceremony in the Royal Theatre in Madrid, Spain...
Associated Press

Placido Domingo’s name comes up in Argentina sex sect probe

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Opera star Placido Domingo’s name has appeared in an investigation of a sect-like organization in Argentina that also had U.S. offices and whose leaders have been charged with crimes, including sexual exploitation. Domingo, the Spanish opera singer who has faced accusations of sexual harassment from numerous women over the past […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Burn pits legislation nears finish line with House approval