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Tampa Bay lawmaker drafts bill to help vets exposed to burn pits

A U.S. lawmaker from Tampa Bay has filed legislation to help vets receive immediate health care and coverage for burn pit exposure.
Burn Pit Veterans

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. -- After 10News revealed a possible treatment for veterans exposed to burn pits, there's finally some action for tens of thousands of suffering vets.

Burn pit exposure is an epidemic with many consequences that veterans deal with years after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

READ HERE: Proposed treatment for veterans exposed to burn pits invented in Tampa Bay

Following a 10News story in January, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R - New Port Richey) drafted legislation to help get veterans the health care and coverage they need right away.

A Veteran's Story

Joe Hernandez was exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan when the military burned waste like chemicals, ammunition, oil and other items they had to get rid of.

Years after coming home, Hernandez noticed he was feeling weak.

"If I can't breathe or I don't feel well because I can't breathe, then what was the point of coming back alive," he said.

Hernandez is among thousands of veterans who have signed the VA's burn pit registry.

Action From Congress

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

"I mean some of the stories are so very sad," he said. "These are our heroes we're talking about. They need health care immediately and they need to get their disability payments approved immediately."

Bilirakis drafted legislation that would give veterans presumptive status, making them eligible for health care and coverage right away.

Veterans otherwise could be forced to wait for comprehensive research linking burn pit exposure to various respiratory illnesses - and by then it could be too late.

"They're getting sick and some have passed away," added Bilirakis.

Although there's no public pushback, Bilirakis believes the Veterans Administration is delaying the process.

Earlier this month, he and other lawmakers learned more about burn pit exposure at a hearing in Washington D.C. Now he hopes Congress will pass his measure by the end of the year.

Possible Treatment

Since our original story in January about Dr. Randall Harrell, who invented a possible treatment for burn pit exposure, Harrell has received numerous calls from vets and other physicians looking to learn more about the treatment.

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