Press Release

ICYMI: Senator Gillibrand Watertown Daily Times Op-Ed: VA Should Cover Veterans’ Claims Of Burn Pit Illnesses

Feb 24, 2021

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, published an opinion piece in the Watertown Daily Times outlining her agenda for veterans and military families in the new Congress. Additionally, Gillibrand details one of her main priorities, the Presumptive Benefits For War Fighters Exposed To Burn Pits And Other Toxins Act, which would establish presumption of service connection for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins and streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits.

The full text of Gillibrand’s op-ed may be found here, key excerpts are below:  

  • “Meeting our obligation to protect the health, safety, security and morale of our service members and their families, including those at Fort Drum […] starts with addressing the looming health care crisis in our military and veteran community created by exposure to burn pits and other toxins on bases around the world. For years, burn pits were used to destroy everything from medical waste to electronics; they exposed more than 3 million service members to a toxic cocktail of dust, smoke and debris. Now many are sick and dying from cancers and respiratory illnesses. I have met too many ailing veterans who have spent months or even years jumping through hoops to prove their illnesses are linked to burn pit exposure, only for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to deny their claims, saying there isn’t enough evidence.  …  I will soon be reintroducing the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act to establish a presumptive service connection for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins and streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits.”
  • “The SolarWinds attack, which saw foreign hackers breach multiple federal agencies and thousands of companies and government offices, has been deemed the “largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”… As cyber-security threats and attacks become more frequent, bolstering and rebuilding our military cyber defenses, especially our cyber personnel, must be a priority. Improving our cyber-security strategy and attracting the best and brightest personnel will be a major priority of mine on both the Armed Services and Intelligence committees. 
  • “We must take action to ensure that no family who is serving our country should have to live in housing that is riddled with mold or vermin. The National Defense Authorization Act last year included a requirement to audit the medical conditions of service members and their families who lived in unhealthy military privatized housing so we can get a better view of the situation and begin addressing it.”
  • “We have to do more to meet the unique needs of military families with children with disabilities. That is why I supported the provision in the NDAA that will require the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Needs to develop individualized service plans for families with special needs and the inclusion of $20 million of funding for Impact Aid for Severely Disabled Military Children.”