Veterans lobby Vermont lawmakers for burn pit bill

Published: Mar. 14, 2019 at 5:54 PM EDT
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Lawmakers are looking at a bill to help Vermont veterans who say burn pits in war zones made them sick.

Thousands of military members breathed in smoke that hung over bases from the open-air burn pits. In those pits, everything was burned: tires, medical waste, human waste, metals and trash.

A WCAX News investigation revealed that many Vermonters also got sick and some died. So families of vets and vets themselves are pushing lawmakers to pass S.111. It requires the health commissioner to create and distribute educational materials to make vets aware of the health effects associated with exposure to pits.

Thursday, the wife of a former Vermont adjutant general and a vet with colon cancer gave emotional testimony in a Senate committee where the bill is under consideration.

"I survived two combat tours to come home and die in the United States because of somebody's irresponsibility. And that's wrong. It's not fair," said Wesley Black, a Vermont National Guard veteran.

"This is this war's Agent Orange for sure. And I think that even our government has recognized that," said June Heston, whose husband died.

The Department of Veterans Affairs set up a registry to document veterans' possible exposure to burn pits but says more studies are needed to see if there are long-term health problems associated with them.

This bill under consideration in Vermont would require the state, the VA, the adjutant general and inspector general to notify vets that the registry exists. It's not clear when it will be voted on.