Rep. Sherrill Hosts Jon Stewart, Freshmen Reps, Veterans Advocates for Burn Pits Discussion

March 26, 2019
Press Release
Group Plans Next Steps to Advocate for Veterans Afflicted by Toxic Exposure from Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan

Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill hosted a discussion with Jon Stewart, freshmen Members of Congress, Veteran Service Organizations, and September 11th First Responder and Survivor Advocates to discuss joining forces to help secure treatment and benefits for veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, "Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan." From 2007 to 2018, as reported by the New York Times, the VA has processed more than 11,000 disability claims "with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure."

"The broken VA disability claims process has failed to adequately aid veterans with toxic exposure during their military service. The illnesses, cancers, and skepticism that for years prevented Congress from taking action to help our first responders and survivors too closely mirrors the inaction our veterans exposed to toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan face from the VA and DoD," said Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. "I'm glad we are bringing these two communities together to learn from the experience of the September 11th advocates and make sure our service men and women get the care they need before it’s too late."

"Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing many of the same illnesses and cancers years after their service as we've seen from the first responders after 9/11, and that's no coincidence," said Congressman Max Rose. "Whether it was the exposure to asbestos and other harmful substances in the air at ground zero, or from burn pits that soldiers were forced to use overseas--the damages are lethal and cannot be ignored. We must fight for our veterans and heroes who are suffering as a result of their service."

The advocacy network supporting 9/11 first responders and survivors has taken up this issue as the exposure, cancers, and respiratory diseases at Ground Zero closely mirrors the conditions facing those exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"After walking the halls of Congress for 15 years for 9/11 first responders and those affected by the aftermath of September 11th, I am looking forward to new challenges and to working with veterans," said John Feal, Founder and President of the Feal Good Foundation. “I was a veteran before I was a 9/11 first responder, and to see these veterans and our first responders get sick with the same cancers and respiratory diseases, it’s humbling I get to beat up Congress to do the right thing. I look forward to being part of this team, and working with Congresswoman Sherrill and these freshmen, to make sure legislation is passed for these men and women because we have a moral obligation to do this."

“We have a model that has been used for 9/11 and is applicable, and we just need some direct action and hopefully that’s what this meeting was about,” said Jon Stewart.

“After a decade of advocating for widows, veterans, and service members facing a system of delay and deny we are ready to make sure these war heroes are granted the right to life,” said Rosie Lopez-Torres, Executive Director of Burn Pits 360 Veterans Organization. “Our partnership with Jon Stewart and John Feal will allow us to move  the needle forward. Our veterans are dying and it’s our moral obligation to make sure they receive the care and benefits they earned.”

In addition to Representative Sherrill, present were: Rep. Max Rose (NY-11), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39). All of the members either serviced in the armed forces or the Central Intelligence Agency. 

Other attendees included representatives from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW). 

Sherrill talks with Jon Stewart and Representative Abigail Spanberger