After a 10-year fight to force the Department of Defense to acknowledge that their use of hazardous open-air burn pits as a means of waste disposal in combat zones are making service members sick, and even killing them, retired Navy veteran Lauren Price says she and other veterans’ advocates are finally making headway.
On Wednesday, July 18, Price and numerous other representatives from veterans service organizations held a joint round table discussion with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and members of both the Subcommittee on Health and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, the VA, and the National Academy of Science, to discuss the affect the toxic open-air burn pits are having on American military members.
Legislation is set to be submitted to Congress on Wednesday, August 1st, to begin the process of automatically granting benefits to military members and veterans who served in certain locations or fall within certain parameters and have contracted certain diseases arising from their service, instead of forcing them to wait (sometimes years) for benefits to be approved.
Unfortunately, Price understands the dangers of the open-air burn pits first-hand, as she contracted a terminal lung disease when she was serving in Iraq in 2007-2008, called Constrictive Bronchiolitis. Price was left with only 35 percent lung capacity, due to exposure to the burn pits, where every imaginable piece of garbage is burned with diesel fuel, 24/7 near combat zones.
The Department of Defense, the VA, and even members of Congress have continued to insist that more research is needed to approve benefits and services to military members who have become ill by the toxic fumes, and tout that only 2,000 claims have been approved for burn pit exposures.
However, Price said there are over 140,000 registrants on the VA’s Burn Pit Registry – not including those who have died from the contaminants, or those who registered prior to 2014.
Diseases contracted include various forms of cancer, rare lung conditions and other life-altering or fatal diseases, due to exposures from the toxic chemicals.
The legislation to be presented to Congress Wednesday, is co-sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
Price said multiple press conferences will be held announcing the proposed legislation on Wednesday, in DC, CA, and Tampa, FL. She will be participating with Bilirakis’ District Director at the press conference in Tampa.
Bilirakis tweeted on July 2 that he helped secure language in the spending bill to designate $1 million toward research efforts between the Dept. of Defense and VA regarding the harmful effects of exposure to burn pit toxins.
ICYMI- I was glad to have secured language in the spending bill which passed the House that will designate $1 million to coordinate research efforts between the Dept. of Defense and VA regarding the harmful effects of exposure to burn pit toxins. https://t.co/7nCb7RBInA
— Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) July 2, 2018
After the round table discussion on July 18, Ruiz tweeted, “Today I met with the VA to ensure they understand that we must get our burn pits exposed vets the treatment and benefits they have earned immediately. I wasn’t satisfied with their response so I will be submitting an official inquiry to get them to do their jobs. We cannot wait!”
Today I met with the VA to ensure they understand that we must get our burn pits exposed vets the treatment and benefits they have earned immediately. I wasn’t satisfied with their response so I will be submitting an official inquiry to get them to do their jobs. We cannot wait!
— Raul Ruiz (@CongressmanRuiz) July 18, 2018
On June 18, Ruiz tweeted a video of a hearing in June regarding the hazards of burn pits, and wrote, “Right now, veterans are developing rare, debilitating, and fatal illnesses that most probably are linked to their exposure to #BurnPits. The VA and DOD must stop the excuses and start giving our veterans the care they need.”
Right now, veterans are developing rare, debilitating, and fatal illnesses that most probably are linked to their exposure to #BurnPits. The VA and DOD must stop the excuses and start giving our veterans the care they need. @BurnPit360 @IAVA pic.twitter.com/9cZSCCwJYu
— Raul Ruiz (@CongressmanRuiz) June 18, 2018
On July 25, WFLA News Channel 8 interviewed Army veteran Christina Thundathil, who also contracted a lung disease due to exposure to the burn pits. Lauren Price is also featured in the broadcast.
@VetWarriors1 public statement re: Burn Pits roundtable tomorrow. @DeptofDefense STILL using open air burn pits in Taji, Iraq! @HouseVetAffairs @realDonaldTrump @VAChair @realDennisLynch @FoxNews @haltman @WFLASteveA https://t.co/65wzWlX1Mg pic.twitter.com/TZzyZowpay
— VetWarriors1 (@VetWarriors1) July 17, 2018
Lauren and her husband, Jim Price, a 21-year Navy veteran, have founded Veteran Warriors Advocacy, a national veterans’ advocacy group which works on behalf of other veterans who need help, and tirelessly fights for legislation to improve care for veterans, as well as demanding that use of the burn pits be halted.