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Biden vows to increase support for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits; some vets are 'cautiously optimistic'

Jim Price says he and other veterans have been asking for health care and benefits for more than a decade.

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Last month on Veterans Day, the Biden administration announced a series of plans to help veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Burn pits were used as a way to eliminate waste like chemicals, ammunition, oil and other items the military needed to get rid of. Many veterans have described it as a burning hole of toxic waste.

Within weeks of coming home, veteran after veteran reported rapid health declines from debilitating headaches to breathing issues and cancer.

During a 2018 interview with 10 Tampa Bay, Lauren Price, who served in Iraq for 11 months said, "I had no idea that the thing I would come home to deal with would be literally I can’t breathe.”

Price passed away in 2021 after years fighting bizarre health ailments and eventually cancer of the peritoneum. In the midst of her own health struggles, Price made it her mission to help other veterans who were being denied health benefits from the VA because they couldn't prove a link between the burn pits and health problems.

RELATED: First Memorial Day without his wife, an American hero who died from toxic exposure in Iraq

The Biden administration's new plan tasks the VA with researching whether burn pits and environmental hazards can be linked to illnesses including constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers. The VA has to provide recommendations within 90 days about their assessment of these diseases and their link to service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The plan also pushes for veterans to get treatment right away for conditions likely connected to the toxins without the burden of proof.

10 Tampa Bay has covered the stories of veterans exposed to the toxins for years. In 2018, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R - New Port Richey) drafted legislation to help get veterans the health care and coverage they need right away. 

Bilirakis calls burn pit exposure the 'Agent Orange' of our time. 

More than three years later, veterans are still fighting for support and care from the VA.

Lauren Price's husband, Jim Price, was also exposed to burn pits while serving. He's keeping her memory alive through the foundation they created: Veteran Warriors.

Jim Price said he's cautiously optimistic about President Joe Biden's new plan.

"We’ve seen a lot of times the VA, politicians, or even veterans services organizations have a great idea, a great concept that will help veterans but the follow through is lacking," said Price.

He even questions why the VA needs to do the research because it's already known what damage is caused by breathing in toxins.

Price said, "Come February, have they looked into it? What did they find? What’s going to be done with these findings?"

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