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Armato Introduces Resolution Urging Congress to Pass Bill Presuming Veterans’ Exposure to Burn Pits, Toxins Happened in Connection with Service

In an effort to ensure veterans can receive the benefits they need from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they were exposed to burn pits and other toxins, Assemblyman John Armato has introduced a resolution in the Assembly urging Congress to pass federal legislation that would remove the burden of proof for veterans with health issues caused by their exposure.

The resolution (AR-250) calls on the United States Congress to pass the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, which would presume that certain diseases veterans experience after fighting in these wars were caused by exposure to burn pits or other toxins during their service.

During the Global War on Terror and the Gulf War, the military incinerated waste generated by its bases in areas referred to as ‘burn pits.’ These pits were utilized for years and have since been recognized as a source of toxins that can negatively affect the health of people within the vicinity of the smoke.

The federal legislation effectively removes the burden of proof from veterans in order to obtain VA benefits for a health condition. Currently, they must provide evidence they were exposed to toxins or were nearby a specific burn pit that directly caused their current disease or disability.

Under the legislation, they would simply need to provide documentation indicating their deployment during one of the aforementioned wars, and the existence of a qualifying health condition. Qualifying conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and several kinds of cancer – among other health problems.

Assembly sponsor Armato (D-Atlantic) issued the following statement on the resolution:

“Expecting veterans to not only prove they were exposed to a burn pit or other harmful substance, but that it directly resulted in their current health condition, is quite frankly a ridiculous requirement. Yet many veterans are unable to get help for their condition because they are unable to meet this requirement.

“Our state is forever grateful to our military members for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of this country. Any veteran who experiences health issues because of their service deserves proper care and treatment.

“I urge Congress to pass this federal legislation to allow more of our veterans to access the benefits they need.”