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Connecticut News

Congress considers a bill to provide immediate health coverage to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals

Sgt. Robert B. Brown with Regimental Combat Team 6 watches over the civilian firefighters at a burn pit in Fallujah, Iraq, on May 25, 2007. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
Cpl. Samuel D. Corum
/
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
Sgt. Robert B. Brown with Regimental Combat Team 6 watches over the civilian firefighters at a burn pit in Fallujah, Iraq, on May 25, 2007. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Congress is considering legislation that would guarantee health benefits to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It’s called the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops or COST of War Act.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill. It’s being considered in both the House and Senate.

It would guarantee health benefits to veterans suffering from the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals including burn pits, nerve gas, radiation and other combat poisons, Blumenthal said.

“The COST of War Act would guarantee that they receive medical and disability benefits when they are exposed to these toxic substances that cause cancer or other kinds of illnesses,” he said.

Blumenthal pointed out that Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans should not have to wait for years to prove that they’ve been harmed like Vietnam era veterans did with Agent Orange.

“There should not have been a requirement for 20 years of scientific justification, bureaucratic rigmarole for Agent Orange and there shouldn’t be for toxic substances in the future. We want a system that streamlines the findings, the benefits — so disability payments are made in a timely way,” he said.

The bill covers all 3.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. It also covers thousands who served in the Vietnam War. It would allow exposed veterans immediate and lifelong access to healthcare from the VA.