SYRACUSE, Ohio (WOWK) — It’s a growing health crisis in the U.S. Military that is leaving veterans literally gasping for air. More and more veterans say they were exposed to toxic smoke while in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now having to fight for healthcare they desperately need.
“One doctor was like ‘Oh it’s asthma’ and I was like no this isn’t asthma,” said Andrea Neutzling, a combat veteran.
It would take years for Neutzling to be diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis. She believes it’s from being exposed to toxic chemicals coming from burn pits while deployed. The pits are used by the military to burn waste.
“It’s burning 24-7, it’s always burning. When I say all the trash I mean wood, plastic, lithium-ion batteries, tires, metal, you name it, it was getting burned,” said Neutzling.
Neutzling and so many veterans like her have struggled to make their voices heard on the various illnesses that have stemmed from the burn pits but now Senator Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio) is getting the U.S. Senate involved.
“Our soldiers who are sacrificing for us are getting sick from exposure to these burn pits and damn it we got to do something about it,” said Senator Brown.
Last week, Senator Brown and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing “Toxic Exposure: Examining the VA’s Presumptive Disability Decision-Making Process”. During the hearing Senator Brown called on the Department of Defense to look into the exposure of veterans like Andrea. Brown has also introduced legislation like the “Burn Pit Accountability Act” that advocates for more studies on the effects of burn pits on service members’ health. Most recently the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act that included an amendment based on this bill.
Right now veterans are encouraged to register to the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry where more than 180,000 veterans have filled out the questionnaire since 2015.