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Lawmakers push VA to cover vets exposed to toxic burn pits

More than three million vets may have been impacted, and up to 78 percent have been denied benefits.

WASHINGTON — Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee are concerned that millions of veterans from recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to burn pits.

But, a  high number of those troops have been denied related disability ratings and needed medical care by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At a hearing this week, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia, 2nd District) wanted to know why.

"Seventy-eight percent of veterans who have applied for service connection due to toxic exposure were denied since 2007," she said. "I don't get why everybody here is so satisfied with the status quo, because I really do think the VA is letting down our veterans."

Disabled American Veterans Assistant Legislative Director Marquis Barefield agreed.

"The need is now," he said. "So there should be a way for those veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and toxic exposure to be able to receive the health care they need to address the disability that they're claiming."

In all, the VA estimates as many as 3.5 million veterans may have been affected by burn pits and other airborne hazards during their service.

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