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Senator Gillibrand comes to Syracuse ahead of burn pits legislation vote that would cover potentially millions of exposed veterans

Senator Gillibrand VanKeuren Square Burn Pits Leg 6 June 2022 Cr John Smith.jpg
John Smith / WAER News
US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to the need of VA medical care for veterans sickened by military burn pits while serving overseas. She is at VanKeuren Square in Syracuse.

A vote this week in the US Senate could help provide medical care to New York Veterans both here and across the US who have been sickened with cancers or respiratory illnesses after being exposed to burn pits in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. U-S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came to VanKeuren Square in Syracuse on Monday to support “The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics or PACT Act.” She says what happened at Ground Zero on 9/11 is similar to what happened in burn pits.

“When the towers fell and everything was lit on fire by jet fuel, those toxins created all of these cancers for our first responders.  So we know when our military created these burn pits, they threw medical waste, human waste, electronics, building materials into pits and burned them on fire with jet fuel.  So, unfortunately our service members have suffered.  The VA estimates 3.5 million service members were exposed to burn pits around the world.”

The PACT Act is named after Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson and includes Gillibrand’s legislation that would provide for presumptive care to qualifying service members and veterans. She says estimates of the number of veterans impacted is staggering.

“Up to 3.5 million…  that’s how many served on the war on terror.  There’s a burn pits registry and I think only about 200,000 people have registered under the registry, so that they’re getting medical monitoring.  But, it could have effected a lot more than that.”

Gillibrand is urging passage of the bill to remaining Republicans across the aisle who haven’t indicated their support for the legislation. An additional 60 votes are necessary for its passage and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer supports the legislation.

VanKeuren Square
John Smith / WAER News

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.