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Colorado veteran in D.C. to ask government to recognize burn pit illnesses

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 5:39 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Black Forest, Colorado veteran is seeking help for service members suffering from burn pit exposure.

Army veteran Elba Barr was in Washington, D.C. with other veterans and celebrity Jon Stewart asking lawmakers to pass a bill saying cancers, respiratory illnesses and other health issues are directly connected to burn pit exposure from military deployments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 1990.

Burn pits are open-air pits where the military burned anything from medical waste to plastics to human waste to tires to electronics.

Barr said she has been suffering from extensive health issues since being exposed to the pits, including cervical and ovarian cancers, infertility and respiratory issues.  She said she wants to be a voice for the millions of service members who are struggling to prove their health complications are service-connected.

“I wrote a check for the value of my life 13 times for this country and all I’m asking for, I upheld my end, you uphold yours, not give me the red tape,” said Barr.

About three-and-a-half million veterans have been exposed to burn pits and airborne toxins.  Veterans Affairs has denied about 80 percent of burn pit-related disability claims, according to data from 2020, saying many could not prove the illnesses were connected.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill in the Senate, and there is a companion bill being considered in the House too.

If the bill becomes law, it would help veterans who were exposed like Barr receive federal health benefits.

Veterans Affairs encourages all veterans concerned about burn pit exposure to talk with their doctor.

Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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