tv Jon Stewart Others Advocate for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Fumes CSPAN February 7, 2022 5:13pm-7:47pm EST
discussion. before we proceed, i would like to go over some items for our remote roundtable to ensure that everyone can participate in a meaningful way. first, if you are experiencing connectivity issues, make sure you or our staff contact our technical support so those issues can be resolved immediately. to ensure members and participants can have engagement, i ask that members continue to remin visible on camera, unless they face technical problems. also, i ask that all participants remain muted when not speaking so that back ground does not interfere when someone else is speaking. regarding the format of the roundtable, it's my intention that the discussion be as conversational as possible. however, given the large number of participants, and the need to
keep things moving, it will be necessary to have some structure. accordingly, it is my intent to move through title by title with 10 to 20 minutes per session, depending on the number of questions. i would ask that members raise their hands should they have questions. and i will do my best to alternate between members and participants from the bsos. in addition, i ask that members and participants keep their question and comments to a couple of minutes so that we can cover as much ground as possible. does any member have a question about the procedures for this round table? hearing and seeing none, we'll proceed. today, i'm thrilled to welcome our esteemed veteran advocates and veteran services organizations to this virtual roundtable to discuss two important matters, to our veterans and their families. in-service toxic exposures and
the honoring our pact act. when we send our service members into harms ways, we made a pact to care for them and pay for their care when they came home. congress has been too slow to act, citing high costs or lack of scientific proof. this sew this places the burden to prove toxic exposure on veterans themselves. every day, more and more veterans speak out about exposure to environmental hazards and other toxic substances during their military service. recently, i put out a call encouraging toxic exposed veterans to share their experiences with the committee. as of this morning, the committee has heard from over 400 veterans in 48 states. these reflections are very powerful, and i would like to share some with you now.
this navy veteran wrote -- serv. i never worked with chemicals before my service or since. i feel like a nuisance to the v.a. health system." i heard from the widow of an army veteran who said, "no wife should have to bury her 22-year-old husband because of his exposure to unsafe conditions while in service to his country."
it is incredibly clear to me that we need to pass legislation now. the speaker has committed to bringing this bill to the floor if we do so, so we need to be prepared to bring the best possible version of this bill to the floor. this bill has gone through the legislative process, including a full committee hearing and markup. this is now the time to bring together stakeholders and committee members to discuss the path forward where there is common ground and where we need to get down to brass tacks. our bipartisan bill will address the gamut of issues affecting toxic exposed veterans' access to ga care and -- trivia care and benefits -- access to v.a. care and benefits. it will open up health care to more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits and
establish a resumption of care for over 23 respiratory illnesses. it is time congress and the american people backup "thank you for your service" with action. toxic exposed veterans have held up their part of the pack. now, it is our turn. we know the true cost of our promise, but we cannot renege on our responsibility to toxic-exposed veterans because of any preconceived sticker shock. over the past 20 years, congress and our country have made the choice to spend trillions on other priorities while sending service members into harm's way at the cost of $6.4 trillion. we know this congress is willing to find money when it wants to. that has been demonstrated by adding $25 billion to the last
national defense authorization. so, the question is -- how can we improve this bill to ensure support and passage? i'm interested to hear what my colleagues across the aisle would like to change that would still uphold this sacred promise. when our country goes to war, we do not nickel and dime the department of defense, and we should not do so when it comes to the care of our veterans. i'm grateful to have all of you here for our discussion today. ranking member, i would like to give you the opportunity to add any meaningful remarks. ranking member: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank everyone for joining us here today. i'm grateful to each of you for our -- for your commitment to our veterans. your commitment represents
understanding the challenges posed by toxic exposure all too well. we discussed those challenges last june. the committee was painfully underprepared to vote on a bill at that point. we were working on a minimum cost information and receive radio silence from the biden administration. we now have some of the information, and it is clear we have more work to do. i appreciate the roundtable as a first step, but given the focus on the act, we will not be able to discuss everything we need to today. for example, we likely will not have the opportunity to discuss the new work the v.a. is doing to better support toxic exposed veterans at this time. v.a. recent actions should inform our work on this issue, not compete with it. and as i have said before, we
need to work as partners on a parallel path with each other and the senate to get this done. we have not done that thus far. and our work to support toxic exposure -- exposed veterans has suffered for it. i understand the senate is currently exploring a phased approach to address toxic exposure that would prioritize care for those who need it now. those of us who attended last year's legislative hearing may remember jim price's testimony. jim, combat veteran whose wife tragically passed away from conditions likely linked to toxic exposure. i know many of you worked with lauren and mr. dearly. to quote jim's testimony, "and if it's are great -- "benefits are great, but they mean nothing
to someone who is dead because they did not get care." jim put it perfectly. we need to focus on taking action steps now to expand care to those who need it most before it is too late. additionally, we still need to identify a way to pay for toxic exposure legislation. the cbo estimates the act would cost roughly $280 billion in new mandatory spending and 140 $7 billion in new discretionary spending. we do not have hundreds of billions of dollars in offsets laying around. -- and $147 billion in new discretionary spending. i believe we need to preserve offsets for toxic exposure and let the focus be that. i remain committed to find a way to support toxic-exposed veterans in a way that is fiscally responsible for future generations. i believe we can do that. speaking as a veteran myself, i
don't think that is too much to ask. veterans are taxpayers, too. we should be mindful of how we spend their money on their behalf. i look forward to seeing where each of your organizations might be on all of these items and, to be honest, in robust discussion we need to have this afternoon about the way to move forward. thank you, mr. chairman, for having this roundtable, and i look forward to this discussion today. with that, i yield back. chair takano: thank you, ranking member. i will now introduce our participants from the veterans advocacy and pso communities. joining us this afternoon is mr. john stuart, veteran advocate. mr. john fields, veterans advocate. ms. rosie lopez torres, executive director, mr. patrick
murray, director of national institutes of service to veterans of foreign wars for america, the deputy national legislative director for stable american veterans, consulted for vietnam veterans america, lindsay church, mr. alex mirsky, deputy director of government affairs under warrior project, ms. burge, government relations and communications associate, iraq and afghanistan veterans of america -- ms. birch, legislative associate the american legion, mr. cory titus, director of veterans benefits and reserve affairs military officers, the military officers association, mr. roscoe butler,
associate legislative director, and mr. jim vale, national service director of veterans benefits and policy aligned with those associations. in the interest of time and to keep things moving, i would like to begin our discussion and turn to title i of the bill, expansion of health care eligibility. can you share the wounded warrior project's perspective? your sound is still -- >> can you hear me? i want >> thank you, mr. chairman. good afternoon, mr. chairman, members of the committee.
i'm alex from the wounded warriors project. thank you for inviting us to participate in this discussion. it's a bill we strongly support. i want to acknowledge that there were many toxic exposure bills introduced to this congress, and what you have done with the pact about is put them together to create a comprehensive solution for veterans that were exposed. while there are many necessary provisions in this bill we'll be discussing today, which include concession of exposure, we have to talk about title one, which could expand permanent va eligibility to all veterans who were exposed during their military service, regardless of their disability claim status. we believe this is absolutely critical. not only for veterans who were already suffering from exposure related illnesses, but preventative care, as well. vietnam veterans have access to
health care due to exposure to agent orange. current vet raps need the same access for the same reasons. i want to tell you a story about a warrior named scott evans. scott was a marine, he deployed twice to afghanistan as a combat engineer and dog handlers where he was exposed to burn pits. he says they were encouraged to spend time near the burn pits with the dogs to see if they can still sniff the munitions. he was honorably discharged in 2012. he got a job, never felt the need to enroll in v.a. medical care or put in a disability claim, because he felt he suffered no significant disabilities. it wasn't until eight years later in 2020 he started experiencing severe abdominal pain and losing weight rapidly. at that point, he knew something was wrong. he learned he was not eligible, sims he never filed a claim and
he was beyond the eligibility period for combat veterans. over the course of the next several months, he accumulated about $20,000 in medical bills seeking treatment for his condition. it wasn't until later that year, a friend he served with connected him to wounded warrior project. we were able to get him service connected for other things and enrolled at the v.a., but his diagnosis at that point several months later was terminal pancreatic cancer. scott says he's received good care, but understandably he can't help but wonder if his kanter would have been operable if it was caught months sooner when he initially tried to enroll. mr. chairman, we believe no veteran who served in an area of known exposure should be turned away from the v.a. spot is not alone, we estimate there are 750,000 iraq and afghanistan veterans ineligible for v.a. health care enrollment,
due to the fact they've been able to establish a service connectability. so that's 750,000 veterans who served in areas of known exposure who are now operating without a safety net should they become ill, and we don't think any of them should be turned away like scott was. so we believe that guaranteed care for all exposed veterans is absolutely critical and has to be part of any comprehensive toxic exposure this congress. so thank you, mr. chairman, and i'll turn it back over to you at this point. >> thank you for that testimony. it was very heart rendering to hear that story. i will now ask the first question under title one. is upe definition of toxic exposure risk activity, the actual language in the bill.
it is basically the definition, something that everybody here, minority members, majority members, pso community advocates -- can we live with this toxic exposure and risk activity definition? to me, any activity -- is this a revision that we can support? are there any concerns? is there anybody who cannot support it? that might be an easier way to respond. is there anybody who cannot support this revised definition?
yes? go ahead. >> thank you, mr. chairman. does this revised definition also include the dates and locations that are listed in -- i believe it is section 302? chair takano: this revised definition -- no, it does not include dates. that's something we should take note of. we will take that under discussion and keep things moving. mr. vale, you have a comment on title i? mr. vale: thank you, mr. chairman. first off, i want to say with support this legislation. i also want to point out that it is not good policy to overpromise and under deliver.
if this is not done correctly, we could run the risk of repeating the sins of the past. a lot of good people -- a lot of good people work at v.a. and their hands are often tied. good legislative intent sometimes ends up with rulemaking that results in unintended consequences. vha is operating at full capacity right now, according to our understanding. when considering the influx of new, eligible veterans this legislation will provide for, it only seems natural that this is too great a burden for vha to bear itself. consequent the, it falls on community care networks to deliver health care to veterans. is this too great a burden for the community care networks to bear?
has the full cost to fund this additional demand for health care been considered? this is happening right now. dependence are being turned away from military treatment facilities to the community -- dependents are being turned away. how can they handle more patients such as the veterans eligible under this legislation? are we unintentionally creating a perfect storm, giving somebody a benefit they cannot access? that's really frustrating, so i ask for rephrasing and underfunded mandate. we support the legislation but are concerned about having funding to support it. thank you. chair takano: thank you. we definitely have noted your concerns. let me go on to ranking member bost.
ranking member bost: thank you, mr. chairman. this is a question i want to ask everybody that is involved with title i here. would you agree that addressing eligibility for health care should be our first priority? if everybody agrees, i will move on, but if you don't agree, let me know that. that is going to lead to my second question. then would you support a proposal that extends eligibility for care without extending benefits -- without expanding benefits? in other words, to the opening statement that i made, which is there's people that need the care now, so let's move forward with that, provide that at a level that we can and then continue to work toward the longer goal for this bill. anybody disagree with that? >> i just have a comment. my concern is how well-equipped
is the v.a. to handle those complex patients coming in with underlying diseases that up until now they are passing off as psychosomatic issues? they are diagnosing people with mental health issues as opposed to these underlying cancers that are killing veterans. i will give you an example -- sergeant wednesday black, who was on jon stewart's show recently -- he died. my biggest concern would be what training would be facilitated to these clinicians? are they trained in occupational medicine? are they trained in epidemiology? there is so much it takes to properly affect these kinds of health issues. that would be my only concern, is i don't want to see what is happening now continue to happen. ranking member bost: that is probably one of the reasons why
it is so vitally important to get the input from the v.a., so we know where they are, what they can handle, but also, as i said in the opening statement in our last hearing, while we are doing this, we are doing nothing , and that is not a good place to be. we can chew gum and walk, ok? we can do this and provide for those that have and can be diagnosed and still continue to work on the registration rather than -- you understand what i'm saying? that's the concern here. chair takano: mr. brown, i understand you have a response. mr. brown: representative bost, a question i have would be what about the people who have the terminal cancers and are unable
to work? how would the compensation -- i mean, where would it come from? ranking member bost: that's what i'm saying. we can continue to work to try to get that done as quickly as possible, too, but the situation is we do know those that are exposed. we do know those that need the medical treatment that they can receive right now. we can move forward with getting that part out and taken care of and then continue. we do that with legislation every day. that is how we create legislation, quite often. we move forward knowing that we can definitely positively do this, and let's keep working to try to get it better and better and better, but right now, we are not doing anything. mr. brown: is that going to go back to cover earlier veterans from before 9/11 with the known exposures the v.a. has on their website already, or is that solely for the post 9/11
veterans? chair takano: my understanding is that it would address the post-9/11 veterans, not pre-9/11 veterans. it is a system being created now, something being done now. i don't think we have data for pre-9/11 vets. mr. brown: i understand what you're are saying. the v.a. already has the known exposures listed or previous appointments before 9/11. that's what i was wondering, if those would be added into the system. chair takano: they are planning -- that is also in the enclave now -- the conclave now.
i do want to keep this moving. next, ms. watkins. go ahead. ms. watkins: i appreciate everyone being here today, and i think everybody wants to do the right thing and make sure that the burn pits particularly of the post 9/11 generation, does not live through the same experience that our vietnam vets who went through agent orange went through who went through years and years of studies and demands on their time to make their case in the v.a. while people died from exposure. we are trying to avoid repeating recent history, and i appreciate everyone being here. i have a part of the bill that we are considering. repr i appreciate everyone being here. i have a part of the bill that we're considering peter myer and i, did the burn pit exposure act, just to make it easier and to have some presumption when
you walk in. i know, obviously, it costs money to treat people who have been exposed to these things. i think we all know deep down that it's part of our responsibility, and it just note for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who are so worried about the money, all but one of you voted for $25 billion increase to the defense budget. so just to be consistent here, if you're going to be deeply, deeply concerned about the spending of money, i would expect the same scrutiny to a bill you passed and voted on in december that we are now giving to helping our veterans. i would just ask rosy, if you could just from your experience, i think it's sometimes hard when you do policy to just -- you sort of lose your ability to understand what this means for human beings. and i know your experience through your husband was really powerful when i heard it. talk about his experience of trying to make his case, and what it means so that this
committee understands what our veterans are going through every day just to get that recognition. >> look, and thank you so much to all of you for this opportunity. umm, it's years and years -- i worked at the v.a. for 23 years, so i sort of understood the red tape we were about to face. but it was just years and years of delay on both the department of defense side and the department of veterans affairs side. so we basically went to every health care facility within the two systems. i mean, to prove a point, and then most importantly to try and get answers, right? i already knew the outcome was going to be even traveling over the war-related illness and injury centers. in between that, we had non-profit organizations filling the gap financially because we had already exhausted our life savings. in my husband's case, it was
more of us being forced to find an answer because his employer was getting ready to let him go, right? he was a state police in the state of texas. and then they forced him to resign after we finally were able to receive a solid diagnosis from dr. robert miller at vanderbilt university. prior to that, every answer was just basically a diagnosis of unknown edology, anxiety. it was very frustrating. so we knew we weren't the only family experience thing hardship. so after you exhaust all your life savings and trying to access care, which we're still sort of there. he was recently hospitalized for the same issues as the gentleman that alec talked about. we don't know if he has pancreatic cancer, it's huge possibility. but the challenges that these families face, aside from trying to act as care, is you hear story after story of these
survivor's widows spending their last days with their loved one, trying to collect buddy statements from their loved ones brothers and sisters during wartime just to try and figure out how will i put food on the table for my children once my loved one is gone? and we know that it's being done on a case by case basis, but that's not enough. it's very scary to even think about, you know, going to the v.a. because even their own staff tells us, go on the outside. this will take forever. this is their own staff making this advice and encouragement. so while i know the v.a. is working on things, the reality is, in this community of people impacted, you know, there's neither the presumption for the health care happening.
i know veterans that have walked into appointments and they leave hopeless. i don't know how many people have put a bullet in their head because they're so hopeless at the end of the day. they're losing their homes, vehicles, losing their jobs. so much so, and i'll end with this, the injustice behind all of this continues on to -- like where we are with my family today. leroy's job loss will now be heard before the united states supreme court. because it's not okay to treat the veterans the way they're being treated. so i just encourage everyone to understand it from every perspective, that, you know, not only as a family but as an organization, we have collected data. there are people in everyone's districts coming forward and saying the same thing. so thank you. >> thank you, rosy. mr. stewart, i understand you
have something to say? >> thanks so much. i want to sae talking about funding and getting a different perspective on what the reality of this should be. they have to decide if there are -- in what is generally seen as the community as an adversarial process that can tie the exposure in iraq and afghanistan to the conditions they are suffering now. there should really only be one job. how do we implement first rate toxic exposure health care for the iraq and afghanistan veterans so they can receive, in
the way that things have gotten better with traumatic brain injury, if you went down years ago, amputees and now it is world-class surgeries, world-class prosthetics, and riveted -- and rehabilitation. but it took attention and money and we have to establish that for the veterans of iraq and afghanistan because the cost 15 years later, and yet burden of proof and scrutiny is always on the veteran. so when we talk about wanting to get them to health care now, access to a system that does not understand toxic exposure does not help anyone.
there is a burn pit center for excellence at the v.a.. the funding is $6 million to $7 million year. 15 years after the dod knew this storm was coming. they spend $90 million a year on viagra, just to give you perspective. if a budget is a list of your priorities, i think this shows where everything stands. the v.a. is afraid of being overwhelmed. and all the conversations we should be having -- the only conversation we should be having is a collaborative effort to bring the v.a. together and create first-rate toxic exposure health care, not benefits later because if you are sick with pancreatic cancer not having your benefit, what are you living on? so the idea we have to split
everything up and create more bureaucratic processes is unacceptable. the bottom line is our country exposed our veterans to poison for years, and we knew about it, and we did not act with urgency and appropriateness. therefore, we have lost men and women who served this country. they have died from our inaction . so i just want to step back for a second and don't worry so much about the protocol and things like that. let's not lose the big picture. i know everyone wants to do the right thing and it is appreciated, but i do not want to get lost in the sauce. >> thank you, jon. i have in line some following members.
i will take one more question for title i and keep others in the queue for the discussion. we can go back to title i, but we have to keep this moving. ms. , but we have to keep this moving. miss miller meeks, you have your opportunity to make your comment on title i. >> thank you. and to all of our panelists representing -- this question comes from being a 24 year military veteran and families who are veterans and uncle who spent his entire life in a va facility, after his ship went down in the pacific in world war ii and also, as a physician and i have a friend who developed cardio myopic the after desert storm, which impacted both the lives of he and his wife and us, of course,
as his friends. and so, my concern is this, there is a tremendous health care shortage that is not only -- i know one of the bills we may be voting on will be on trying to alleviate some of that, but all across this country, there are health care so shortages, personnel shortages, specialist shortages and so, i think it is a valid point to bring up that, and i think mr. veil mentioned this, that saying that someone has a benefit, does not get them health care. it only gets them a benefit. so, is there a possibility and could we envision a phased in approach to health care access, for exposed veterans as they -- continue to determine the science on whether or not a toxic exposure is truly related to an organic health care problem of disease. that's a.
i'm respecting my time. >> thank you. if there's no response, will move on to title two. thank you, ms. miller meeks. for title two, mr. marie, you are now recognized -- >> good afternoon everyone, thank you chairman to cano. for getting everyone together. i want to thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important subject. comprehensive toxic exposure is the vfw's number one legislative goal for -- we are confident that this many people all working in the same direction, we can finally accomplish that goal. one of the most common issues we have heard from --
is the difficulty getting care and benefits for illnesses. i believe we do get toxic exposure. military service is synonymous with toxic exposure. decades, since world war i, world war ii, desert storm, iraq, afghanistan, and other places around the world is synonymous -- unfortunately, the burden of proof has been put too heavily on the individual veterans for decades. and it is far past time that we change that. the major step in the process is updating how presumptive -- and the va is currently undergoing a pilot program which hopefully will improve the process and make it considerably easier for veterans to -- we are encouraged by the willingness of secretary mcdonald to update the process. we are hopeful that the end result will be something we are all in favor of. however, we do have some
serious concerns about some of the specific details of that pilot program. we have been engaged by va, we have to keep those lines of communication open in order to achieve success. but that is the whole point of a pilot program, to hammer out what works and what does not. and hopefully produce a great product that works for veterans. the next important step is and revising the -- gotta find what works. the vfw supports many of the pieces of legislation that strive to make a new framework for toxic exposure presumptive. there are parts of the bill that we think at the job done right. the team -- proposes an independent commission -- if we had full faith and confidence in the current situation at va to do all the right thing, we have seen time and time again, va secretary failed to solve this problem due to varying issues. the vfw believes there should be an element of independent body and the overall process.
in the pact act, it turns -- we believe there is a critical role for, that but not only to have internal va commissions. we believe a combination of both is the best path forward. additionally, the pact act proposes a specific timeline for officially accepting or declining the recommendation of the varying boards. this is critical because for far too long, studies have waited on decisions for years, all the while, veterans were getting sick and dying. we are hopeful to consider -- continue this process. we may have differing opinions on how the and product should look, regarding tax exposure -- but the one thing we can agree on is the current process is broken and it is not helping veterans to the fullest extent. we need to do something to fix this. i'm glad we are here today to make that happen. thank you very much for the time. >> well, thank you, mr. marie
for your comment on title to. i will go to my question. va suggests that our proposed approach to the toxic exposure presumptive process -- that it would add more complexity to the process and further delay. the answer -- they request that we strike this new framework. however, at the same time, the va is actively developing their own framework for presumptions. there is -- from changing or eliminating, by putting the requirements and the law, we ensure the framework remains in place for future generations of toxic exposed veterans -- does everyone agree on this
point? if not, why not? i would like feedback at this point in time. title two and this question of putting the framework into law. >> mister chairman, frankly, the assertion that this would delay it any further, it's flat out wrong. i don't know how you delay never getting something done. toxic exposure is not getting done in any way shape or form, in any kind of speedy fashion. so, this will not delay. you can't delay something that is not being done. this would put it in law, hopefully. again, we have different feelings about specifics, va's -- is different from what we are talking about today. i think what va did in rolling out a pilot without bringing and everyone ahead of time, simply producing, here is what we're doing, we hope everybody gets a day thumbs up. that is not the best way to do it. we would prefer to get brought in in order to format. so we don't waste time and then
going back for a version two, three, so on and for so forth. no, i do not think that it would delay it. it's necessary. we have to do something to make it speedy. secretary mcdonald's said that there is a perceived level of denial of toxic exposure. that is not perceived, that is a reality. right now, they are denying about 80%. we have to get that entirely filtered out. so, whatever efforts we can do to actually get something on the books that works, that is what needs to happen. >> thank you, mr. murray. >> we appreciate that the va is -- the framework will be necessary in any event, but it will also have to be codified. >> go ahead, mr. butler. ross go butler, i think you had
your -- >> i had something in regard to title i. i was just going to say that, i agree that it is important that we don't put benefits and health care at odds with one another. but something needs to be done immediately. because veterans are not getting the benefits that they deserve. it shouldn't be whether we have the resources to provide the care of services, it should be, what is the right way to provide the benefits that they deserve today. and move forward and ensure that i have the provision in title i -- that provides for a report on whether va has the resources
and necessary to the needs of this action, and if not, to provide a report on congress of what that is. that allows the framework for va to get the resources, the added resources needed to provide or -- for continual health care benefits to veterans. but we shouldn't delay it to put the -- at odds with the other. >> thank you, mr. butler. we do have to move on to ranking member bost. >> i just need to know, what's the scientific standard that zhang -- congress should put in process. and then a second question i have to, and anyone can answer. do you believe the va has a program --
that the va pilot program well-established the presumptions of exposure, will increase transparency and improve the process with what we are doing right now with the pilot program? >> ranking member bost, -- not causation. that was one of the unofficial sticking points in the first draft of the pilot program. the va has gone back and revised up. we are grateful that they are listening. more transparency, we certainly hope so. as we saw on mr. stewart's show, it was very difficult to explain a presumptive process. a couple of smart individuals in that room, and it really sounded like it was very difficult. so, how do we explain it to our members who don't do this every single day? they feel like they are going against an adversarial process.
so, that is the biggest thing we hope it's transparent, we hope it's easy to understand, and we hope it gets veterans the care and benefits they need. >> -- >> yes. i agree with everyone that -- the big thing is that we need to remove the burden of proof. and remember that because, me, personally, it took me seven years to get my disability approved for toxic exposure. it took over six er trips and thousands of dollars later that i will never get back. in that seven years, that nodule that within my long, doubled in size. and i had to go get screened to make sure it doesn't turn into cancer. and we need to keep the veteran in the forefront of this conversation. right now, we have veterans
that are dying. we have veterans that are just finding out that they have health impacts from toxic exposure and we have future veterans that don't even know what is to come in their future. and so, i think the presumption there is that we need to make sure we look at the vietnam veterans and whether presumptions are because there are a lot of similarities there, but the gulf war veterans have been experiencing -- and bring in a panel of -- with some of the thoughts -- and you bring them in, you sit down, and you take a look at some of these cases and decide what are these top presumptions are going to be, so we can start removing that burden of proof, so, for example, myself and other veterans, i have to me my own lawyer, my own advocate. put everything together in the most organized way to submit it to the va in hopes that they would approve it. and, thankfully, i was part of that 20%. but 80% of us are not getting those benefits.
and in the meantime, there are veterans that are dying. >> thank you very much. real quickly, mr. brown. >> i can show you approximately 20 to 30 years -- that they have illnesses like acute leukemia -- and -- in its highest category of a casual or -- the va has never had any of these. and they are the ones who contracted through the national academy of medicine to do the studies, and there are hundreds of conditions like that in those volumes. but none of those have ever been added as a presumptive under the va. >> all right, well, thank you. mr. levin, go ahead. >> thank you, mister chairman, for convening this roundtable.
thank you, vso leaders, thank you to our guests. -- it seems obvious that everybody here wants to do the right thing, but only some want to pay for what is the right thing. my question is, what message does it send to our service members and who are veterans, if we dismiss the comprehensive reform that we need, due to the cost of doing what is so obviously the right thing. and what do you think this says about our values as a nation? >> mr. 11, i think the pay for for all of this was our pay -- that is what paid for this care and benefits. there are five -- far too many people that raise the right hand -- and there is no consideration at the time for how we will pay
for it, what's hackers will be used, ten years from now, 20 years from now. unfortunately, for many of mr. brown's folks, 50 years later, six years later. -- the cost of war is exactly what this is. this is a continuation, face to. this is the next step. this is critical to put together, with the total cost of being in the military. >> do you have a response? or comment? >> mister chairman, i was actually interested in mr. stewart's thoughts as well. >> i would say simply this. we are a country that loves its veterans. certainly, we purport to. and we support the troops. and we put on our flag pins and we stand and they get discounts at denis's, but the true
support of to having a veterans back is when they need the support. and when they are sick and dying, due to the service that they gave to this country and they come back and are put under scrutiny and are made to be defendants in a case concerning their own health care and lives, it is unacceptable and it is the lowest hanging fruit of a functioning society. and so much of this is just pure common sense and if we could just stand back for a moment, outside of the bureaucratic impact of all of this, and stop thinking about the process by which -- i would challenge every congressional leader in this room today or on this call, go back to your district and dig a ten acre pit and put everything that that town discards into that pit and burn it with jet
fuel and diesel fuel and put in hazardous materials. for god sakes, the burning -- the smoking gun in this case is literally smoking guns. and then, burn that pit, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. but tell your constituents, don't worry. 15 years from now, we are going to convene a panel to discuss whether or not the health issues that you are having are in your head or not. and we will make you get a lawyer to prove it. look, we've got all these diseases on grand zero is -- in manhattan, was a burn pet. the men and women who sat on that pile and dug through it, suffered the very same illnesses and diseases that we are seeing now. we have created a program -- it's administered by --
it is effective. it is targeted. it deals with prevention and screening and health care. these programs exist. you don't need to reinvent the wheel. and we shouldn't have blinders on to this idea that this process and these diseases -- we have not been allowed to use burn pits in the united states since the 1970s. but epa has already gone through the list of cancers and immunity issues and pulmonary issues and along issues. why are we relitigating this? when thousands and thousands of veterans, their very lives depend on the urgency of our actions. that is my thought. >> thank you, mr. stewart. thank you, mister 11. we need to move on and i will ask mr. lehrman to be the last to comment on the title to
section. so, mr. lehrman, go ahead. >> thank you. i appreciate the opportunity. i think the biggest thing to point out, in reference to the conversation about presumptions and codifying it and waiting for va -- there are many examples. we can look at agent orange orange in vietnam. in 2016, there were several diseases associated with that exposure, however, it took an act of congress to get them passed. because va did not get it done. so, any process that we will afford, must be transparent, va must him -- and it should be dakota fide. so, we are protected the -- that aren't going to take that action in the future. >> thank you, mr. lemon. i want to move on to title three. -- you are in the queue as
members. so, i think -- i thank you all for the discussion on title to. mr. lemon you will now lead our discussion on title three, which is about improving the establishment of service connection -- go ahead and share your comments for title three. >> thank you, chairman. appreciate it. title three establishes a presumption of exposure, also known as a concession of exposure. what does this mean? this means that via will concede exposures as identified -- in those determined by the va secretary to include roughly 50 different toxins. and 17 countries -- asked related to burn fat exposure. these were already identified in air sample reports by the united states army and also, va
currently recognizes those toxins as well. so, by establishing this concession of exposure, what are we doing? we are removing the veterans burden of proof. they don't have to prove what they were exposed to. this concession of exposure will concede. here is what they were exposed to. right now, 78% of -- direct service connection -- are being denied. this can help change that. by conceding, yes, they were exposed and, let's take it a step further. it will also require va to provide -- in an examination if there is not sufficient -- why is this so important? well, let's say we don't have presumptive diseases yet, this removes those obstacles for veterans to get -- now, let's do you say we do have presumptive diseases, but
this veteran has won not on the list. this will help them get direct service connection. this is a huge part of the bill. you are giving veterans a fighting chance, whether there is a presumptive disease, a presumptive list, and more importantly, it is removing those obstacles to get what they need, to get service connection and they don't have to prove their exposure. now, real quick, i just want to comment on a few of the other things we have talked about. one, i am disappointed to hear that the health care entitle one, the proposal would exclude the veterans listed under title three. which would be veterans exposed -- to burn pets. and from post 9/11 -- these are veterans, in many writes, no longer have that five-year access. they no longer have health care. so, i think that amendment really misses the mark and if we are only going to rely on --
it only goes back so many years. this is not going to catch everyone evenly. -- i think we shouldn't put all our eggs in that basket. and one last final comment on, how do we pay for all this? why do veterans have to pay for their own benefits? why do we have to cut programs inside the veterans affairs from one group of veterans to pay for these groups of veterans now, just to get health care? to get benefits? we don't have to. we choose to. it is a self imposed rule. we can wave that. we can find ways to do this and d a.g. really believes -- should not apply to veterans benefits. thank you very much for the opportunity. -- >> thank you, sir.
i'm going to go straight into my question for title three. when it comes to improving the establishment of service connection process for toxin -- views is premature since it is not an authoritative store source and exposure information in the moment. but, is this a valid reason to not codify the use at this time? what we want the intent of its use firmly established for when it was fully functional? if there's any feedback from the members to the questions i just asked, please -- >> yes, chairman. just to address that real quick. there is great potential going forth. again, it's not complete. if we codify too soon, i'm just saying potentially, the va may
then say your exposure was not an island so you weren't exposed. we want to make sure we don't get to that point and now quantifying it now for the future, there's nothing wrong with that, we just don't want to go down the path of if it's not an eye or didn't happen and because we all know, there are 40, 50, 60 years worth of toxic exposures that nobody's ever going to know, there are not many military records. we don't want to limit veterans by solely relying on hires. >> while we go to ranking member bask? >> thank you, just real quick. if anybody can give input, what's the most effective way to determine whether the service member was exposed to toxins at a specific location? what would be the criteria set? >> ranking member bost, we've
gone through this round and round with generations in the past, originally folks that were in vietnam were given it between certain, years latitudes, brown, water will bear -- blue water. people were exposed and thailand, cambodia, guam, we don't have, it's all trying to piece it out is not working, and again exposure, we've got a lot of reports of people on bases and we're not even talking about that. people in hawaii or are drinking gas. that's terrible. we're not even talking about that in the pact act, so there's domestic exposures as well, so military service is really what we are starting to look towards as synonymous with exposure. >> outside of the individual service member having monitors, where in measuring everything they breathe, everything that they are doing over there, there is no way to truly track
the exposure that an individual has. that is a problem that earlier generations faced. they didn't have any of those measurements to keep track of the exposure, so therefore the va does not think that those troops were exposed in a take so long for them to finally get around to saying while he may have, but like seven years later for our desert storm veterans when the d.o.d. sent the letters about chemical exposure, and by that time most of those people who were sick were already out of service, and they're just trying to get their claims approved and the va's looking at them like there is nothing there. >> let me just say this, and i am trying to work with everybody on this to better understand it. what you've just said is, if you serve you automatically get it regardless of where you are at or what you were exposed to, anything like that? that changes the whole process
by what we are trying to work on here, because we've got to try to get something that will pass through congress, which means we have to have some guidelines and i may even totally agree with you, but trying to get a majority of my colleagues to do the same we're, just feeding a dead horse if we don't come up with a criteria that is set forth, because that is the standard that has been there, and if it's going to be that if you signed the dotted line you became a member of the military no matter where you went, you automatically get the amendments, and that's something we need to look at, but i don't know how you're gonna get it through and passed. >> i understand that difficulty and would i just outlined, mr. bost, is basically everyone everywhere at all times, but what we are trying to do is get it in focus where it needs at the most. i also want to identify that frankly, there are other things at work that we're not talking about.
we are focusing a lot on burn pits and there's a lot of exposures like the men and women that were at a weapons dump. when i'm trying to identify is that this is a very pervasive problem throughout the entire military so when it seems adversarial at va, it should absolutely not be adversarial, it should be a slam dunk. it should just be given that if someone comes in and says i was exposed, the answer should be, you bet you were. >> ranking member bost, if i can just add something. look at the national academy of science studies in which they would say, we can't draw conclusions about exposure to burn pits and the conditions that we are seeing, even within those studies, with a really say is we have insufficient data. a lot of the problem here is the pentagon at d.o.d. do not have the sufficient data and that time has passed. and so there is no way to really create a cohort study,
the closest thing we have to wait to go back to 9/11 is, we got really fortunate in that the fdny had a court study that they had been doing prior to 9/11, so they had a perfect lineup of the data of exposure versus the pre data. by the pentagon's own admission, the data that they had is insufficient. it will never become sufficient. and so what we are doing is we are holding up veterans health care and benefits based on data that the pentagon has not been able to provide big. and that will never get better. so i think that is the catch-22 that we have placed the veterans and, because now they are forced to go in and prove their own cases. sir, even if you smoke for 20 years and if you've got lung cancer and a doctor and a medical board tried to make you prove that your lung cancer
came from smoking, somebody could always come in and say you lived in the city. you breathes in smog. we have to start living by the code of the va, which is the veteran gets the benefit of the doubt. it's not causation, it's not even correlation. so i think that is the issue that we get into as we tried to try to define it, which is why i think all the vsos are talking about presumption being the one thing that can lift that burden of proof, because the data does not actually exist. >> thank you, mr. stewart. bob mr. trone, quickly, are you still here? did he leave? >> i'm here, chairman. i think the veteran gets the benefit. that hits the nail on the head. big and a story. thank you for including the presumptions act in the bill
and getting rid of barriers to care and move this process forward. two points in business. we always took care of our people and i sit on this committee and also the veterans appropriations committee, where this is going and we know how crucial it is the health care, and taking care of our people, all our people our events. i love to hear from people -- mr. stewart, two quick points. one is the human cost when he talked a little bit about not getting this legislation done. that's the cost and every day there is a human cost of not having it done, and the second point is 18 months, is that enough time for the va to implemented? we've got covid vaccine and way less? can we do it in less time? i think we should. i'd love to hear from mr. stewart. lives are at stake every day. >> sir, what i would say is that we have to start looking at it as a national security
issue. when you look at how easily defense budgets go through and the amount of money that is being spent, and the trillions of dollars that we spent to try to rebuild countries overseas while ignoring a lot of the pressing issues here. i think you see that our veterans need to know that when they come home -- staff sergeant isaiah james, and infantry men and served in iraq and afghanistan said something to me that i think should rock all of us to our core. he said if another country was doing to our veterans what we are doing to our veterans, we would be at war. that is just a chilling statement from someone who was boots on the ground in iraq, afghanistan, a young man who has seen a lot of his colleagues sick and die. a government that seems relatively inactive and uncaring, and not moving. and as far as with the
congressman said about the amount of time for implementation, that should be our entire conversation here. the entire conversation should be, again, how do we implement first class toxic exposure, health care and prevention and benefits for those who have served. and of story. we can simplify this. if we just keep our eye on the larger picture, but man, sergeant wesley black who rosy brought up earlier, he said in a heartbreaking way, it's too late for me, but i'm going to spend my last time here on earth advocating for others so that would happened to me does not happen to any other of my brothers and sisters, and when i go to meet my maker i will be able to stand proud, and sadly, he did. unfortunately, just a little while ago he passed, but you
know, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds of our own veteran community. and that is unacceptable for a country that speaks so highly of their veteran community and purports to love them so much. and man, here's the crazy part. it's so doable and it is so within reach with intention and collaboration. that is what's missing. the va should be -- should not be separate from this process. this should just be about a collaboration. with the va should be doing is coming to congress and saying here are the weak spots in our health care system. here is how we think we can bolster it. here are the resources we need to do that. let's move forward together in it. it can be done. >> thank you. we need every day it's too late for one
more mom or one more dad. we gotta trust our veterans. they trusted us when they went to war for us. thank you, mister chairman. >> thank you. mr. gallego, you've been waiting patiently. >> thank, you gentlemen. i tell you this from my personal experience, i am part of this burn pit community, i feel like i am a ticking time bomb. i've already seen friends, young men that have cancer. brain cancer, rare cancers in the fact that we are getting it. i do feel scared. i mean honestly that every time i go for a checkup that something is going to be found there. it does take me off that we are hearing about how we're gonna pay for this. no one told me anything when i got sent to iraq in 2005. they tell me to get on a plane and do with the countries asking from you and we will take care of you in return. well i was there or at least while we were there this country give tax cuts to the richest americans in the
country. you want to figure out how to pay -- men and women, sacrifice our health, our youth, our lives, basically for this country, then why would you do those tax cuts while i was out there? now i could be potentially exposed to the cancers and diseases that come from it being exposed to the burn pit. there's plenty of money. there was plenty of money for us when we cut taxes a couple of years ago with trump. there were plenty of money when we cut taxes when you're obama and bush junior. there is plenty of money to take care of us veterans if we wanted to, if we wanted to prioritize it and i also want to point out we will end up doing this anyway. this is the same thing that happened in ancient orange, minute of putting it off for so long that ended up taking care of and of and women at the end of their lives and it was actually more expensive. if we actually take care of the veterans on the front and we can actually catch a lot of
these diseases early on and actually manage them, because i tell you right now in the end congress is going to give in and maybe five years from now that'll be five years of people getting hurt and end up costing more. it makes no sense we have to borrow. why not borrow? we seem to be able to borrow for tax cuts. there's no difference. i yield back my time. thank you mister chair and the witnesses. thank you. >> thank you, mister gallego. we will have a final word, mr. thampi. >> good afternoon everyone. the american legion is grateful for your commitments to make sure veterans suffering from illnesses top caused by the toxins during their service and access to this quality va health care, my name is mr. thampi. i served in the united states
marine corps and in iraq in 2008. in afghanistan 2009 and ten in support of the global war on terror. i witnessed firsthand the presence of burn pits and close proximities to where our troops slept, fought and eight for 20 years. for decades the legion has advocated for veterans exposed to these toxins, such as agent orange, gulf war, related hazards, the recent long awaited passage of the blue water navy act was the result of years of advocacy that came in some cases 60 years after initial exposure to the veteran. the american legion will support this new generation of veterans. they are coming home with illnesses and conditions caused by toxins. that is a fact, period, full stop. and we have to act now. we keep talking about the costs
and these costs like others have said, nobody asks about these costs when we start the war. this has to be considered a part of the cost of war. the va has been reactionary, they have not always been at the forefront and leading on these, they wait for x amount of number of veterans to pass away from this exposure. and when that number reaches x amount, then, they decide to act. from our perspective, that is very reactionary. the va is not being proactive and that is what we had hoped, that together, we can pass the comprehensive legislation that will allow for a establishing presumptions of exposure by establishing a list of -- and creating this framework for transparency that the va can use to establish additional presumptive illnesses in the future. i think we have all seen as we can't keep legislating one
illness at a time. thank you so much. >> we will now move on to the next title. the next title is going to be led by liz burch. you are recognized to begin our discussion on title for. >> thank you for having us today, mister chairman, ranking member -- like i said before, i have a toxic exposure to -- so, this issue is very important to me. va supports the entire bill to support the health care framework and presumption -- the presumption piece is no less critical than the other components. and this peaceful pot finally lifted the burden on veterans
for producing his or her illnesses and deserving proof of the va. the fact is it's not presumptions help with preventative care and that it establishes better preventative care and what doctor soon look for, and that preventative care can help catch those medical problems in the earliest stages. and, not only saving a life, but money in the long run. the war maybe over on the battlefield, but the war combatting the health and wellness impacts of this battle has just begun and the emergencies of this impacts will become more visible as time moves on. just like it did for our vietnam veterans and veterans from every other war, passed, current, and future veterans. there is a battle at home to be thought to ensure those who volunteered to serve their country are taken care of, no matter the cost. again, the veteran at the forefront of the picture. we service members wrote a blank check to our nation and
we are not asking for the same and return, only one is owed to us. the care and services needed to address injuries sustained in service. those visible and invisible. we must not put any more lives in danger, waiting for a bureaucratic system to catch up. the time is to act now. the -- mister chairman, cost was not a driver when congress and the white house sent us to war, so we shouldn't shy away from the pain of what was incurred. >> thank you, ms. burch. and mr. lamb and mr. louise, you are in q after -- on the discussion to on title iv. my first question to the group assembled here is, let me
preface it, the va does not support our agent orange presumption -- stating that these presumptions are already -- to the vso -- agree with that assessment? >> no. >> mr. murray says no. -- >> as well as johnson a tool, which is another location where we know agent orange was exposed, so no, we don't agree with va either -- >> thank you, mr. lehrman. and i saw mr. brown shake his head. >> correct. v a and -- a partner we work with -- we strongly agree and support these expansions --
in section four of this legislation. >> well, thank you. i will move to ranking member bost. >> and i just have one question. how can va expand its research on the health effects of burn pits exposure? or do we just automatically put into this title -- and they don't expand it anymore, just except these and then are we still looking? i'm trying to figure -- as we try to get this passed, as i said earlier, we have to make sure that we have answers. and just going ahead and writing a check, it's something that maybe we would all agree on this now, but we still have to get it through everybody else. that is what i'm trying to figure out here. >> mr. lemon --
i'll start with you, mr. lehrman. >> i think part of it is, the va can accept science outside of the -- absolutely, they can. it's actually even written into the statutes for agent orange exposure as well as for i -- undiagnosed illnesses and others. i think, looking at other places is a first great step and then, to your point, finding a way to do some comprehensive studies on those who were exposed. that way, we can add potentially more in the future if needed beyond what we have. but i think, va already has the authority to look outside of the national academies. they just need to exercise it. >> miss torres, i did see your comment in the chat about -- model being a good model to
look at. i also want to just clarify, in addition to -- the pact act would provide concessions to -- and access to health care for certain -- based on dates and locations. i just want to clarify that. anything, anyone else want to respond -- ranking member bost, if i hear you accurately, your concern is that these presumptions -- are arbitrary, but i don't think that is the case. >> i didn't mean it that way. but as we are moving forward, we put these down and then, what we use for research? what standard do we put? how do we get, as we try to -- we are not going down a path of saying, that came up in the discussion earlier, that automatically, when you are in
-- you are recovered, that's just the way it is. we will assume everyone is exposed. what is the criteria we are going to use? how do we encourage the va to use certain criteria? what's we don't want to go down the path of agent orange and we don't want -- i disagree with one person that said a while ago, that it saves money by doing it earlier. unfortunately, it doesn't. it wouldn't have saved money by -- so, that is not the way we want to do it either. i'm just trying to figure -- >> mr. bost, if someone could chime in, vso members or other partners. -- had a lot of scientific basis to them from academies and the secretary has moved forward
with three of the more prevalent respiratory presumptions. the rare cancers, because they are rare, and they are happening in very young people, they are frankly not as prevalent because of the definition of them being rare. i want to move on to mr. lam. go ahead. >> thank you, mister chairman and i just wanted to say one thing based on the experiences -- and i was hoping maybe our witness from the -- i represented a very large chapter of vietnam's members of america and we were focusing on the agent orange presumptions. and frankly, as someone who was 37 years old, i was shocked -- trying to establish new agent orange presumptions, almost 50 years or more than 50 years in some cases, after exposure took place.
the post 9/11 veterans community that has grown and is represented on this call, just like the va veterans groups, they are not going to give up on this issue. i want to make sure all the members understand that. people who are voicing concerns about the cost -- they are going to keep fighting for these people, even, god forbid, as some of them pass away. we lost many veterans before -- that will make the veteran community work harder and harder and harder to establish these presumptions. they are not giving up, so -- what is the exact standard? how will we do it? when will we do it? it is a little bit academic. this is happening. the american public supports this. mr. stewart said this. americans love veterans. we know the american public will support this, because
eventually, we got there on agent orange. we can all see this direction this is going in. we need to act now. the whole purpose of a presumption is that we are saying -- to the extent that i have a question of mr. brown, i just wanted to ask if you were -- i don't know if anyone had ever done a study or a calculation of all that was lost in the time that vietnam veterans were waiting for benefits for hypertension and hyper thyroid and all the different things that we have had to fight for and recently years, bladder cancer. but if you could fill us in on maybe the cost of waiting, so that this committee understands how stupid it is for us to try to -- >> well, the cost of waiting, how do you put a cost on a life? somebody who started this country is dying from different types of cancers, rare cancers.
from exposures, they were exposed to in their deployment. i don't know how you put a cost on a life for people that the government sent in the way to start with. i can't begin to understand that concept or to see how you can properly put a cost on an individual's life. but i can tell you, concerning title iv, is that va, for the last 15 years, va's own research has shown significant increases in hypertension amongst exposed veterans. even giving existing frameworks or adding new herbicides for presumptive conditions, va failed to do so. they should serve as a powerful cautionary tale to the under lee optimistic proponents.
to create a new one size fits all, but doesn't, framework -- that leaves a va in the driver seat, in this legislation, we must strongly support the provision for adding named presumptive conditions. >> thank you, mr. brown. -- i too, like you, have a huge veterans of america chapter in my area and was shocked as you were. i call on you next. >> thank, you mister chairman. and thank you to the leadership and the veterans that are out there for your tremendous, steadfast work, your perseverance, and your strong leadership. look, this is a very important title that we need to discuss. this is the crux, the soul of the bill. it is based on a bill that you all work together to produce.
it is the presumptive benefits for war fighters exposed to burn pets and other toxic -- it is a bipartisan and by -- bill that originated from the veteran communities and we are moving it forward as title iv of this important bill. it is the soul of -- it is the vital organ that keeps this patient alive in order to ensure that we give the care and the benefits that the veterans need and their widowhood spouses who are relying on this. it is the part that addresses the family as well. but before i continue to go there, i just want to review some of the excuses that i have been hearing over and over and over. first, is this, wait a minute. we need to do more research on this because it goes back to the original excuse that there is not enough evidence.
look, guys. i've said over and over, clarifying this misinformation. there is enough evidence to suggest that toxic burn pit smoke can produce illnesses in the long and cancers and auto immune diseases. carcinogens cause cancer. burn pit toxic smoke contains cancer. they have identified carcinogens and the soil, burn pit exposed veterans are developing cancer. how do you think they got it from? it's very straightforward. there is enough evidence from extrapolating from firefighters who were exposed to 9/11 and jet fuel that was burned, there is enough evidence in our own u.s. environmental research, and has already banned burn pits from being put -- in the united states. so, there is enough evidence
with a high enough suspicion that burn pits are causing these illnesses and we don't have to go beyond the scientific papers. we can just listen to our veterans and our veterans widows, who are crying out over and over again, who would say that they have no other risk factors, that they're absolutely healthy and now, they are dying or they are dad from all these different illnesses. the other excuse has been that, oh, this will be too much of a strain for the institution. these are unfunded mandates and we don't know how the institutions are going to handle it. it is our responsibility to fund what our veterans need and we must do that for our veterans. that strain in the institution argument is from individuals who put the constitution first. and i am telling you, we must put our veterans first. we must give our veterans and
-- veteran focused and take care of our veterans and take care of our patients in the emergency department that i know of quite well. the other excuse is that we cost -- it costs too much money. now, listen, that is a value statements. and i don't know about you all, but my value is to put people first. it is to make sure that our veterans are taking care of. my value, instead of giving tax breaks in the tunes of millions and billions to 1% rich individual families in our nation, is to give the veterans the care that they need because they need it right now before they are dying. the other excuse is that the place -- pace is too fast. the pace is too fast. this is ridiculous. as the windows of our veterans if it was -- if we are moving too fast. ask folks like leroy and others
who are suffering from constrictive bronchial light is, who are 100% oxygen dependent, and therefore unable to care for their family, work, or others if we are moving too fast. when i hear and veterans here that the paces too fast, but they're hearing is that they want to delay until death. just like what happened with agent orange in our vietnam veterans. and so, look, since i have heard about this i have been getting realtime feedback from the veterans in my district. and i want to tell you about -- who is a veteran who answered the call to duty, while serving in south -- alejandro breathed in toxic fumes and cards antigen from batteries, medical waste, jet fuel and other military items that were disposed of in -- when he returned home, he
noticed that his breathing in the fumes had caused a toll on his body. he was later diagnosed with aggressive form of testicular cancer. despite his doctors belief in his diagnosis whirling to his exposure to burn pits, the va denied his claim because they said, quote, there was not enough evidence, unquote. i have a -- pool -- who tells me that her ex husband is still having constant coughing, chronic coughing illnesses after being deployed in the middle east. miss birch, have you heard from members of your organization that have been diagnosed with cancer that their doctors believe is related to burn pit exposure and their claims were denied by the va? >> yes. we've heard from numerous members and through our survey that reaches thousands and thousands of veterans across
the country that there are plenty of deterrence right now that are getting denied benefits that have where cancers. you look at these veterans and they are young. like me, i'm 34. i look healthy, right? i've got all kinds of health issues. they push you to the side and say you can't have cancer. you're young, you're healthy. later they find out, oh, you did have cancer. we don't know how you got it but now it's stage four. well, good look. >> yeah, sadly this is a common theme throughout her story. what we need to end the excuses to take care of our veterans to pass the honoring our vets. make sure the presumptive benefits for the war finders section and title for his maintained. with those of you who think this is the way we are going to save cause where nickel and dime our veterans by eliminating some of the cancers or pulmonary illnesses that are
listed in this list, i have news for you, you will not go and attempt this without resistance or without a fight, because this is what is going to saves lives. this is what will bring justice to the widows who are currently suffering trying to raise their families. we will fight tooth and nail to make sure the section is maintained. >> thank you. i gotta give on the section the last word to mr. fields who waited patiently. thank you, doctor ruiz, thank you for clarifying the issue of cancers. the more expensive presumptions are currently being dealt with by the va, respiratory presumptions. mr. field, go ahead. john, are you still with us? did he go? >> he might have had to run out to do something, some 9/11
business that he had to do, but to drive home this point, i'm going to give you guys the worst-case scenario for presumption. the worst-case for presumption is simply this. somewhere along the line, if the va will pay the health cost and benefit for someone who sacrificed and fought for this country for their colon cancer, and it turns out that their colon cancer was not necessarily caused by a burn pit, maybe it was caused by bacon, that's your worst case scenario in terms of presumption. the va and the spotty have to remove their blinders. the evidence on the carcinogens that are in this smoke is overwhelming. in medical papers outside of the national academy. it all exists, and the 9/11 health compensation program exists as well as a model.
on that is a blueprint that could easily be followed. if the will was there. it works. it's effective. it honors the taxpayers. it's not wasteful, it's not fraudulent. it doesn't fail audits like the pentagon does. so if you're looking for a responsible program that can help finally address the toxic exposure issues, there's so many veterans in the community that have suffered for so many years. it's their. >> thank you, mr. stewart. i now want to move on with title five. i want to thank you all -- thank you all for the discussion on title iv. i know call on mr. thampi to begin our discussion on till five. >> thank you so much, chairman
takano and member bost and member of the committee's to listen to us. title five authorizes va to conduct scientific research that will impact veterans and their families affected both today and in the future for military center areas with toxins are hazards. it's critical for va to understand how toxic exposures will affect veterans currently suffering from illnesses that have yet to be identified at the va at this time. the va will be coordinating the 40 toxic exposure related studies and establish a strategic plan to ensure the research is transparent and coordinated with oversight being provided by hvac in as that committees. at one point i just want to before turning it over, make a point that the va has a reputation of being reactionary when trying to provide care for veterans in the past. we can't wait for another 40 years before this generation of
the global war on terror veterans to receive health care. we must transform the va so they can talk -- tackle toxic exposures in the future, being proactive. this reacher sea researches would allow them to determine what common illnesses are affecting gulf war veterans today. would common cancers or post 9/11 veterans are going to get in ten years, in 15 years. or the studies relating to cancers that are determined to be positively associated with identified toxic exposure veterans, and then we have to think about the families and the dependence of veterans and the feasibility -- of those dependence for health care costs. the main goal of the section is to allow va to have that crown jewel of research that they do have. this section is what allows them to do that. thank you so much.
>> thank you, mister thampi. i'll begin with my question under title five. the va requests that we strike our independent health care study, stating that no science or evidence has been found by the any s.e. m. that connects adverse health outcomes of independent for an individual in utero exposures unique to -- as the cyst eddie worth pursuing on behalf of our independence? quick reactions? >> yes. >> yes. >> i'm not seeing -- it's not a worthy study. i'm just going to move on to ramping -- ranking member bost. >> thank you mister chairman. i just want to expand on this.
i think you mentioned it in your opening. do you believe the va has been aggressive enough to pursue the research regarding the health effects of toxic exposures with what they've done so far? >> ranking member bost, it is my personal opinion that while the va has made attempts, we -- the american legion believes that the efforts could be more -- there could be more efforts to be more collaborative with the vso community, including us on the pilot study which is something we would've all appreciated. we want -- i was at the va.
with the vso communities. we're both trying to help veterans. we know that. we understand that they are our partner. there are partners. we have to work with them. so i don't want to come off as being disrespectful or route, but we do believe that their efforts could be more collaborative or more transparent. >> i think many members believe that as well. go ahead. >> thank you, sir. i think one thing is that not coming too hard or down on the va, but thinking a little bit outside the box is that the va bob -- we consistently talk about how overworked they are. they don't have time. they're playing catch-up. well what about working within the community? i'm a big fan of community over competition. how many dog medical schools and eager medical students that want to research and get their hands into these things? why not work with local medical
schools. i mean we have national jewish health, which hopkins, the lips goes on. and work together with the va to remove some of that burden on the va in hopes that the research can come along quicker to make sure that the research is now backing up the health care needs of veterans and making sure that they're being taken care of, and then one other point was that i keep hearing -- everyone's looking for the solution. when we do? although we can't -- veterans that are already outside of active duty service, it's going to be harder to go back and get to them. however, we still have active duty service members still serving that -- to burn pits. one idea that i kind of shout around in my head is that when i was getting out the military i went through the medical board because it was retired. a scan you. they tell you what's going on. half questions as these members
-- so the other thing is that they do x-rays. i had an x-ray on my chest, because i'd been exposed and prior to coughing and so forth. that x-ray showed this module that i had no idea was there. next thing i know i'm getting stands in all the stuff. many veterans are getting out of the military without any of that preventative screening or seen what is going on within their bodies, because i did they could go back and i got my disability. but some of the other veterans don't steal symptoms until afterwards. but if they had that person in a specific screening, then they wouldn't be denied their benefits. why don't we lay the framework for this preventative screening that at least helps some of the veterans that were exposed to toxic exposure now instead of retroactively? >> it's a good idea. i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member
bost. >> thank you, mister chairman. the va would like to say that morris being done as far as research to establish presumptions and it is not exactly -- research to support more benefits. we think -- and also, these presumptions are crucial. our vietnam vets don't have all their time left. the poor health that they are in -- they don't have enough time to appeal to win their claim. the b va, we just won $400,000. we have been fighting this for 25 years. -- they kept denying it. more than i'll. we had to take it up with the board. and our veterans don't have time to go to the board. the presumption is easier to grant than direct service connection. there are many shades of gray that exist --
the current rules are it's too complicated and the veterans don't want to take a risk -- ask -- oh, i can't grant this, if you want to grant it you have to ask the board because they have more authority. i have a memo -- this corporate culture at va, they do not want to grant agent orange claims. but our veterans are running out of time. they don't have time to fight for this. be va fully supports -- for these presumptions because it makes it easier -- they have told me, when i come to work, i don't think, what can i do to best serve as a veteran? i come to work thinking, how can i maximize the points for this claim so i don't get fired. so, the easier you make it for
the -- to make their points, more likely you are to get the grant. it is so important -- and lastly, again, we support the section 403 and i yield back my time. thank you. >> i have a question, if you don't mind, chairman. >> quickly go ahead, mr. brown. >> this is going back to the previous title, 403. vietnam veterans of america -- we do not support changing the current framework for vietnam veterans presumptive -- that is currently on the books. this new -- it leaves a more restrictive presumptive making policy and we feel that, like i mentioned that study earlier, for 15
years, the va had a study showing hypertension and -- they never acted upon that study, even though it clearly is shown in the research. lastly, from the same section, in the honor in are packed section 405, concerning -- for the most part, this section, be va and -- do support, however, we need to find out what comes from the higher rates of the -- that has been going on for 20 years and as well documented. what will this legislation do to address that? we met with this committee before the pandemic took place,
right before the shutdown capitol hill. and we were promised a roundtable to address that matter and it never came. just because we are adding presumptive, if the re-a going to be able to do these presumptive were it's still not leaning to a 73 -- like with a gulf war veterans -- and a 93% denial rate for undiagnosed illness presumptive -- >> thank you, mr. brown. duly noted. your input is truly noted. i will now move on to the next -- mr., ranking member. >> i would first off like to
apologize to everyone. this is vitally important. we are going to continue to monitor this and i appreciate the time that we have had today and i apologize that i have to leave. >> i thank you for your interest and i know your staff is with us and taking in all the information as well. i appreciate your participation. now, we will move on to title six and -- perhaps you can combine your comments at the end of your discussion opener on title six. so, lindsey, you are recognized to open up discussion on title six and maybe add more of your comments. >> fantastic. thank you. -- it's grateful for the -- we believe the toxic exposure should not be a byproduct of service, but, since it is, it's impact --
it's imperative to address the issue with health care, plus benefits, without delay. as -- the pact act is improvement of resources -- the importance of these professions cannot be understated. we can change -- we can make the best and both sound policy, but without the ability to implement these aid -- and get information to veterans in places they need it most -- our members continue to record denial of their claims -- and for being added to the burned pet registry. sometimes waiting years for their claims to be reviewed and even more appeals to try to overturn these decisions. these delays and denials are not just time consuming and frustrating, they can take place as veterans are fighting off illnesses that could very well take their lives in the meantime. additionally, included in this provision is outreach to benefits -- we urge that concerted efforts be -- mainly, minority veterans who have been disadvantages or
deterred from -- based on information from their fears about their denial. given that minority -- are already at increased risk for many cancers and other illnesses and -- are stationed at places like fourth mcclellan, alabama. a region getting this information into their hands canned and will save lives. in section 505, we wanted to address the fact that there is age and gender, but race is not included in the research. we think it's imperative for two reasons. one, because many racially mine norris -- developing cancer and other -- we need to include race in this conversation to ensure that we are looking at this from a research perspective. in addition, you also have higher rates of veterans and minority veterans who are in combat roles, where they are more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals. adding race --
in addition, going back to ranking member bost question -- yes, it is important. and nobody here will disagree that we need to provide health care for these issues. no one will disagree about that. but, looking at history from the minority perspective, every time something is ruled out without direct and intentional design, minority veterans are -- if we continue to do this, we will see higher rates of denial amongst minority veterans and less access to -- it is our opinion that you absolutely have to be doing this with intention and not just rolling out benefits because -- we want to see that happen, but so many people are being turned away, who are we actually serving? going back to mr. stewart's comment about the national security issue, you are 100% correct. service relies on trust. military veterans have to trust the constitution in order to keep going. i'm a third generation service
member. do you think i will tell my child to serve after i've seen this? absolutely not. but my parents or my grandparents -- how they see this conversation, they would have told me the same. you are going to live with a number of people that are able to serve in the military. in addition, as a veteran myself, i was told i have to follow and obey lawful orders. who is making the d.o.t. do this? if there is a provision that says that you can't have -- why our united states troops being exposed to these and other areas? who is making sure that the department of defense is following those same lawful orders that you are asking us to -- it is not fair and we -- the d.o.t. is responsible for paying for this, but we can't -- we have to make sure that somebody is paying for this. it was not our fault. we followed lawful orders and we were told, we are going to get sent somewhere -- we are going to follow lots of orders -- if we had walked away, we would have been a deserter. we would have ruined our lives and gotten dishonourable discharges. we did not have a choice.
people -- you continue to hear people about say, i was ready to die for my country, but i didn't think it would happen five years after, dying from cancer. that is our communities legacy. that is not 11th legacy. and we have to do better in order to keep that trust, to keep that national catchy security intact. we can afford to send people to war, we can take care of those warriors when they come back home. in a culture that celebrates veteran so deeply. thank you, chairman. >> >> think you mastered. that was very powerful. you know, with the indulgence i would like to get mr. titus to open up discussion on title seven so we can do title seven entitle six together. i did see members that had their hands raised. so mr. titles, go ahead we will begin our discussion.
on title seven >> thank you chairman, and thank you ranking member bost and members of the hvac. we appreciate this roundtable discussion to discuss toxic exposures. -- it's long overdue and we applaud the committee's dedication to this issue. we support that honoring our pact act and we appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts on title seven, health registries and records. this title takes several important steps to create awareness and capture data on toxic exposures. section 701 creates a health registry for substances and as we learn more about the harms of pierre phase and the prevalence of exposures within our community the health registry is vital research for service members and veterans. section 702 shows us why. it establishes a health
registry for individual stationed at fort mclaughlin -- recognizing there's over 67 disposal sites at fort mcclellan containing a variety of toxic substances that service members and their families were exposed to over the years. it has not recognized any health adverse effects from those who were there. creating a registry is an important step to gather data on health conditions of those that served under a of circumstances. section 703 and 704 require reporting and collecting information. it's important because it ensures an understanding of all the exposure service members face and the section requires regular accuracy and effectiveness on the data that is vital to oversight efforts. -- encourage for transparency and oversight offered by the sections, however it's important to remember that because of the nature of war
that will always be exposures and we shall not hold this against veterans. this is why section 705 is so important, which provides a path for service members and veterans to correct exposure records. we should be empowering veterans and service members to provide a way for them to interact with their health records and what we need to make sure is that it is linked and connected throughout the d.o.d. in an effective way. the sections and title seven work to address veterans overlook for generations and provide a path forward to learn from our mistakes and better care for future generations. we encourage -- the honoring our pact act is passed -- thank you chairman. >> thank you, mister titus. i see miss keenan from the vfw.
would you like to comment? >> thank you, chairman takano. i'm filling in for pat murray hood. on title seven i think with this really does recognize that toxic exposures can even occur on domestic military installations. to sort of touching back to title two and improving the prey framework which the va recognizes as presumptions, it's still critical because there will be new exposures. there are already new exposures and so this entire comprehensive package is still critical because there are going to be things that we need to address in title seven and it's really starting to point towards with those new things already are. thank you. >> thank you, miss keenan.
sir, go ahead. >> thank you, mister chairman. a comment on title six which is the training. i think that this title does not necessarily get as much attention of some of the other ones that we talked about so far, but it's extremely important for health care providers to get better training on toxic exposures, which i think rosie talked about earlier. but also for veterans benefits to administration personnel to get better training on toxic exposures and the culture at the va has been brought up a couple of times when it comes to toxic exposure claims, it's one of quite frankly, denial. the b ba's pretty good. the veteran disability claim system works pretty well on most things except for toxic exposures. i've used this analogy before that if a claims adjudicator looks at a claim of a person
who is a parachute jumper and says hey you've got 50 pursue training jumps and now you've got bad knees, they are willing to make the connection and say that yes, it's likely this is not your bad knees -- when they look at somebody who's exposed to a burn pit for two years and then they have pancreatic cancer, they are not willing to say -- it'll say you may have had the pancreatic cancer anyway. we need to make sure that the va personnel know that they can grant those claims in the same way that they grant claims for physical disability. i just want to make that point, sir. thank you. >> thank you, mr. morosky. sir, you are recognized. >> thank you mister chairman. brothers and sisters from the military, all veterans, thank you for joining us today. the work that you have done today, the sacrifices you have made are going to improve health care for my children
when my son when he becomes a veteran when he goes into the military and enters combat. this is about the next war as well and your sacrifices are not going to be unnoticed. this is a very emotional topic. mr. stewart, thank you for all your advocacy, both for me and our veterans and the 9/11 commission. you have improved the lives of many given a great deal of attention to the subject. i want to point out the fact that going forward there is a degree of responsibility that the d.o.d. does have and we talk about recruiting, training, sending toward the young men and women who choose to serve. they don't showing you to be a civilian and when they kick you out they say there is the va. good luck. godspeed. that has got to change. no veteran should become a veteran without first proceeding first medical makeup of all the problems they had beforehand become -- before they become civilian day one. until that occurs, it is
imperative that the military, when we go in combat your exposed whether you're in an aircraft, dropping bombs, whether you're getting shot at and ingesting all kinds of chemicals and gases, the military must do a better job, the man you're working on the ground must be -- forays into combat in which you are exposed to things, because right now the responsibilities on the va in the veterans themselves to point out that they've been exposed to. we can no longer accept that. any combat we go into from here for two -- d.o.d., medics, officers that are in charge of all of their troops and combat to say we were exposed. take care of them right now. knowing the medical records. when you step out of your military time, you will be taken care of. we won't have to have these conversations anymore. so i yield back. thank god for all of you. thanks for your sacrifices. sorry if any of you have had any difficulties with the va, do you woody owes you a lot
more as well, and we need to fix that problem. so thanks to all of you. i yield back, thank you mister chairman. i appreciate your sentiments. hopefully, we can -- i see mr. -- do you have a response? >> i just want to add one more thing, mister chairman, in regards to talking about the research matters entitle five. this is a lifelong situation. service members are exposed to toxic substances. we need to continue the efforts and continue following the research. to paint the picture, a study came out just last year about the increased risk of dementia for service members exposed to agent or ends, decades prior. so, i think that we need to continue to follow these issues through -- and through to the next
generation of potential service members as well. thank you. >> -- >> chairman takano, i want to thank you very much for this opportunity. i want to thank the veterans for being here and sharing your stories and advocating for other veterans. that said, it is a matter of -- as mr. stewart talks about, in how we value our veterans and provide them with the benefits necessary. i don't believe now is the time to nickel and dime on issues that are a matter of life and death for american veterans. and i also want to emphasize the value of making sure that we give the most effective, efficient ways necessary to be able to benefit our veterans and how we do that in the speed in which we can to be able to serve them. and ultimately, i will hark back to a time during the fourth of july, right after we
passed this piece of legislation, before the cto came back and i was in the parade. and i was able to speak to many veterans and was able to talk about the benefits that are necessary. there were many stories of people who stopped me, where they were not quite sure what was affecting them. they knew something was wrong. so, this piece of legislation, the pact act, make sure we don't leave veterans behind. with that, as chairman of the subcommittee on -- i have been reviewing the va's i.t. investment to include -- it's my understanding that when benefits for -- exposed to the agent orange -- vpi struggled to manage the surge in claims and required an increase in infrastructure -- to enable faster process of veterans claims. miss keenan, from the vfw,
lindsay, if you could, i would like to hear your perspectives rick -- va's ability to execute on this important legislation. we have not made enough of an investment to -- and i want to support -- in supplying the benefits, including in the pact act. this is an all encompassing -- if you could answer that question. >> i will just jump in, christina from the vfw. as a part of the budget -- we are planning to recommend additional plunging for va to modernize and -- their it systems. in order to deal with the currents claims and for the potential future increase in toxic exposure claims. this is likely a multi year project. we are making those former recommendations through the independent budget with our partners at pa.
>> we also support the recommendation to increase the budget and capacity of va to address these claims. we recognize from members across the board, they are waiting for many years -- they don't know how long it will take. they are getting denied. and we also know, at the same time, that vice technology infrastructure is lacking severely and is decades behind. to make this happen, we need to build these structures now, to build back support when this does pass and when it goes through. because we can't use the surge of claims as an excuse for not moving this legislation forward. va has to make those investments now. they already know that this is an issue, so we have to be prioritizing this to ensure that the capacity has grown a va to address these claims. 80,000 people after four and a half years is absurd. so, making sure that people have the ability to get through this process in their lifetimes
-- >> thank you, miss church. i will talk on mr. brown and hawthorne. >> to give you an example of how difficult these rare cancers are i work directly with two different va secretary's, secretary bob mcdonald, and secretary shulkin. to get a brain cancer presumptive based upon va's own research for gulf war veterans. they pushed this all the way -- and it was denied in 2016 and then, doctor -- did the same in 2017 and it was tonight. so, even with the research and va wanting to do the right thing, you had other agencies
who didn't see fit to grant funding for them. >> thank you for bringing that up, mr. brown. -- it was technically an agency, but -- i thank you for pointing that example out. -- >> mister chairman, thank you very much. mr. stewart, all i representative, i appreciate you being here. i would like to direct this question to miss kenan, with the vfw or lindsey or alex. when would you believe is the ideal time to let veterans know when they are eligible, and what's benefits they are eligible for in regards to burn pits? is it before they leave the service? -- really enlightening and informing the soldiers and marines and sailors -- when they are leaving the
service to become veterans when they should learn about all of these ideas. i look forward to anyone answering that. >> i will jump in very quickly. during the -- program is definitely not too early. the vfw does have credited service officers on military installations to help facilitate. applying for their benefits, even before they are discharged. the earlier, the better. we saw -- some of the complaints we have heard with benefits is the lack of information. whether it's there or email, technology, or just at the va. on whether benefits are and what they can do if they believe they were exposed to toxic substances. so, it really is not a point of time that is too early, whether it is -- or right at their next point of contact with the department -- a>> i agree that it should have
under the very latest as pertains to service, honestly as a veteran myself i would say before they go. we should be talking about toxic exposure before anyone is even exposed. we should have options. we said at the beginning, we don't have an option to walk away from post ordinary burn pick, but we should. we should have options when it comes to whether or not we are willing to go win and expose ourselves. before getting exposed and if it happens while you are on -- if you're in theater, you should be taught when you are leaving. from there you should only be told more, because that's going to increase prevention and early detection because what's happening now is people get four and a half ten years into their post exposure and they are dying. why are we not looking at this ten years ago when they were exposed to make sure they had all the tools they need to manage what's coming. they shouldn't be caught off guard by cancer or asthma or
something they were not expecting when d.o.d. and va knew full well 15 years ago. >> thank you, miss church. i'm going to go to the following. >> thank you, chairman. i greatly appreciate it. i want to make a comment in reference to va i.t. infrastructure. that's very important. they could hire 10,000 more people to help, but if we don't have the tools that expedite the process now, we're going to be in a world of hurt. there is over 200,000 pending backlog claims today. and a heavy investment in the agents for structure, it systems and just to point what we saw yesterday the automation that is being tested out in at the boys of erie channel office for the claims. we should be heavily investing in that full and va so that we won, don't have backlog claims,
and two, we never have to hear we can't take care of that because va doesn't have the resources and infrastructure. we should be paying a head so the system is set up to handle whatever comes its way and toxic exposed veterans stopping the price. >> thank you, sir. >> chairman, with regards to technology and capacity bud. >> thank you, chairman to condo. to answer congressman cawthorn, at least 12 years ago in the marine corps before and after being deployed there is a pre-deployment training and postponement training. that's a perfect time for education to be provided about would a burn pit is. would everyone has -- wherever they're going. whether it's a pamphlet, a powerpoint or just talking to navy corman, something should
be there in that pre-deployment or post deployment training. >> if you want me asking one quick follow-up question, forgive my ignorance for i've never served before, are people that are being deployed due to commanding officers of the department of defense, do they normally know there's a burn pit active in the area before the deployment happens? bob >> i can explain to you what i remember from 12 years ago and my anecdotal story. i was the junior corporal. when you're the junior guy sometimes you volunteer, sometimes you get volatile told. i was told to take out the trash occasionally or once a week. sometimes you see a trash bin, a recycling bin and a burn been. the burn bin would be full of envelope's. you don't want your parents
addresses. you want to throw it away in the combat zone so that operation security, to protect that information. once or twice a week i would empty that burn box. i would take it to the junior private in this quadrant and that poor kid would have to walk to the marine pitt and breathe in. i'm sure he won every three days whenever the burn box with phil. that is when i remember from the air wing in the marine corps in the squadron 12 years ago. >> i would like to make a point there on that as well. you're asking if commanders know about this. the deal would daniel about this because the contractors who start the burnt bits wherever they were at make the d.o.d. sign a letter stating that the d.o.d. could never go back and pursue or sue against the contractor for the burn pets, because here is the list
of the effects of toxic exposures that will come from these burn pits that can further cause health impacts on the road. so the duty is the one signing these contracts to the contractors to protect the contractors, because they know how bad these are. >> thank you for that. bob mr. morosky. >> thank you. a couple of quick things i want to respond to. i agree with what's already been said. it can't be too early to start telling people about these issues, but no matter how good, especially when we're talking about transition assistance program or no matter how good it gets, it's always going to be drinking from a fire hose and too much information for the person at the time. you have to tell them then and continue to tell them afterwards, to. these are conversations that every va doctor should be having with veteran every time the primary care doctor should
be having with them, bringing up aspects of the buildup. it should address that as well. never too early, but it's during and it's after as well. and then with the backlogs, we don't like the va to have backlogs. we don't like backlogs when there's no reason. some backlogs are good backlogs, and those are some backlogs that are occurring simply because we are getting the right veterans into the system and so if there was a temporary backlog to be created by that in and of itself is not a concern with us. we consider that -- >> i want to go back -- >> mr. stewart, i will give you the last word. i gotta bring this to a close. let me just say that there is such a thing as the benefit delivery at this charge program, which i did see an action in
korea during thanksgiving break. that does make a really great attempt to deliver benefits upon this charge, give the veteran a physical note. any ailments out at the time. please understand mr. hud cawthorn, this does not include the subject matter of the day. it includes all of the benefits that relate to a bad knee, a hip. they're still in the service and obviously it's easier to determine surface connection when you kind of know it is happening in that moment nor, but benefit delivery at this charge, the protocol is not huge universally available. it's available in some places but not everywhere. it still does not solve this
issue of all of our veterans who were exposed to burn pits in the post 9/11 yard and the desert storm era, etc, etc. mr. stewart, i'll give you the last word. you've been so patient. i commend you for sticking it through to the very end. not even our members of congress do that. i shouldn't say not even, it's not surprising, but it's surprising to see someone -- >> i'm incredibly busy and popular. the fact that i've been able to do this is a real testament to my stamina. i wanted to sort of talk about the bigger scale, talking about technology and capacity. and we talk about resources and all different things that we have sort of been knocking around here today. they all come back to one sort of fundamental truth. that is priority. priority and intention. we keep hearing from members of congress and people at the va
and d.o.d., this idea of capacity and i'm sort of surprised that they all express the amount of people that may be coming forth. we've been at war for 20 years. d.o.d. is the one who is making the va's customers. this can all be seen coming from 100 miles away. d.o.d. and va both knew their internal documents showing in 2008 and 2010, the toxic exposure was a deadly hazard for american troops. va knew what was coming, so the idea that all of a sudden there is this capacity surge that no one understood or saw coming. it's as though they were filling up a bathtub for years and suddenly went what's all this water on the floor? we have been at war for 20 years. there's 3.5 million veterans and we've had these giant burn
pits. we all knew that this was coming, so the idea that we have been building capacity up to this point is really negligent on everybody's part. i think the message that do you de-has an enormous part to play in this is also true. it's very easy to go after the va. when d.o.d. is the one where there's almost no oversight over the massive resources that they get. and those resources have to also be used to funnel into va to help them take care of the soldiers and not hurt force readiness, but part of national security and force readiness is to trust and build up with the veteran community, then you will live up to the obligations that they still clearly have lived up to. the final point is technology. this is the one that is almost the most unforgivable. for heaven's sake, they've got
robot dogs out there trying to figure out how to defuse mines, and yet duties computer systems can't talk to the va system and some of these remote va offices are guides working on typewriters. and it sounds like a joke, but which it reflects is simply this. priority. the men and women who serve are the greatest asset of the united states military. yet, they are the lowest on the totem pole when it comes to resources. we always have money for the technology. we always have money for the defense contractors. we always have sovereign immunity for the defense contractors, and we always balanced the budget on the backs of those who come home and try and reintegrate. that is the change in culture that has to take place. i know i'm talking to the converted, because i'm talking
to the vsos and all the representatives, but darn, it's crazy that we are even having this meeting, and i'm very thankful that it's getting done, but this thing has to get done and it has to get done with common sense and with intentionality. so thank you very much for having this and it is much appreciated. >> thank you, mr. stewart. i very much appreciating you pointing out the contradictions, the stark contradictions, the robot dog comment really hit home. i want to point out to just echo some of what dr. li said earlier. it also echoes with miss keane and said about with the contractors -- he got signed documents from the d.o.d. so they wouldn't be held liable, when the fact that d.o.d. itself is not liable because d.o.d. does not fall
under the same regulation that other businesses in the united states fall under and all other governments fall under osha. osha standards are standards that would never allow these burn pits to have existed. it's common sense. a burn pit of the size that you mentioned earlier, mr. stewart, simply would not be tolerated in any community in the bounds of the united states of america. it just would not. but d.o.d. could do it because d.o.d. is not bound by full osha regulations, for example. d.o.d. is an entity into itself. i want to thank each of you for your attendance at the roundtable discussion honoring the pact act. when our country goes to war we don't hesitate to pay for armor, guns and tanks that our service members need. it's a matter of priorities, as mr. stewart said.
that, you know, armor, guns and tanks are not the only cost of war. we must ensure to keep our promise to toxic exposed veterans. veterans that have already sacrificed so much. they should not have to fight va or congress for the benefits that they've earned and deserve. no more can congress cry for fiscal restraint when it comes to paying for the care and benefits of our veterans. it's time we honor our packed and prioritize veterans and pay the true cost of war. i know that ranking member had to go or i would ask him to make comments, but i do want to thank him and all republican members and staff for participating in today's dog meeting and today's roundtable. it is my hope that we will come together and speak, in a