Lawmakers, veterans ask VA for urgency in addressing burn pit exposure

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it could take several years to complete research that could prove veterans’ long-term illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. That proof could mean easier access to health care and disability compensation for thousands of veterans and their families.

Ralph Erickson, the VA’s chief consultant for post-deployment health, told members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the VA is working on six studies and is trying to grow a registry created in 2014 to gather data from servicemembers exposed to burn pits.

“The VA is getting out in front of this as best we can,” Erickson said. “There are studies underway. What we’re doing is on the right track. We need to do this now. If we waited 10 years, it would be Agent Orange all over again.”

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