Brown touts benefits of veterans bill | News, Sports, Jobs
WARREN — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said legislation that takes effect Jan. 1 will allow veterans exposed to toxic combustion fireplaces to get the medical coverage and disability benefits they deserve.
Brown spoke with a group of veterans at the Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission on Friday.
If a veteran has specific medical conditions covered by law “related to exposure to these combustion fireplaces, you will automatically have coverage,” said Brown, D-Cleveland. “You will automatically get care whether you go to Youngstown, Warren or Cleveland VA. There are no questions asked if you are diagnosed with these diseases. You get the care. It’s very different from what it was before.
On August 10, President Joe Biden signed Sgt. First class Heath Robinson honoring our promise to address the PACT (Comprehensive Toxics) Act. Robinson was an Ohio veteran who died in 2020 at the age of 39 from lung cancer after being exposed to fire pits while deployed to Iraq in 2006.
The law extends Department of Veterans Affairs health care and benefits to veterans exposed to burning fireplaces and other toxic substances. Burn pits have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of chemicals, cans, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste.
About 70% of disability claims involving pit exposure had been denied by the VA before the bill was approved.
The law directs VA officials to assume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were linked to exposure to fireplaces and to help veterans obtain disability benefits without having to prove the illness was the result of their service.
Part of the law also adds hypertension to the list of ailments for Vietnam War veterans likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange as well as those who served in other countries during that war.
A number of veterans at Friday’s event with Brown said they told doctors and VA staff they had medical issues caused by the exposure and were largely ignored. .
“I know how important this is,” said Herm Breuer, executive director of the Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission. “The impact of this bill is enormous. Just having this enacted into law is so important.
Once the law takes effect Jan. 1, Brown said, “People will get this coverage right from the start and they won’t have to prove” that it comes from military service.
“The benefit of the doubt goes to the veterans as it should,” he said.