Welch calls for action on burn pits

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont Congressman Peter Welch says it's time for lawmakers to take action to protect soldiers from the harm caused by burn pits in war zones. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling halted lawsuits against a military contractor accused of wrongdoing by military families.

The lawsuits claim the burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq led to health problems for thousands of military members who breathed in smoke that hung over bases.

Everything was burned in the pits including tires, medical waste, human waste, metals and trash. There were no landfills and infrastructure to deal with waste in the middle of make-shift cities in war zones. The activity has gone on for years and some are calling the burn pits the new agent orange.

A WCAX investigation revealed that many Vermonters also got sick, and they too, blame the burn pits.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch is now pushing to get exposure to burn pits to qualify as a disability.

"Folks who have these should be compensated. We can pass legislation like with Agent Orange entitled to veteran benefits. Benefit of the doubt on causation to men and women who served in the military," Welch said.

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.