Local veteran says Biden visit on burn pits is important

Dr. Jeffrey Yarvis said it’s significant the president is coming to Texas to speak about the issue, since there are so many veterans and active-duty soldiers.
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:43 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - President Joe Biden is traveling to Fort Worth on Tuesday, and according to the White House, he is expected to push for a federal rule to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Under the rule, veterans would not have to prove their toxic exposure resulted in their conditions. Dr. Amy Mersiovsky, director of the department of nursing at Texas A&M University Central Texas, said it’s not clear exactly what was burned in the pits near military sites in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The pits were used to incinerate waster, hazardous material and chemical compounds. Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would offer disability compensation for veterans who developed medical issues linked to burn pits during deployments. Right now, asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis are officially linked to burn pits, but Dr. Mersiovsky said it is possible other diseases could be added to the list.

She said veterans have also developed neurological disorders and more severe diseases like cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As more research is done, Dr. Mersiovsky said the president can bring more attention to the issue.

“I think that the President’s visit will help to highlight the problem, help bring it to surface some more and show that their support to make sure that our veterans are getting the care that they need.”

The issue is something close to the president--his son, Major Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015.

Although the cause of his cancer is unclear, a local veteran said it’s important the president is talking about these issues.

“I love that our leadership cares enough to put them on the front burner because I think our population generally forgets how many people have sacrificed,” Dr. Jeffrey Yarvis, a retired U.S. Army colonel, said. “And a lot of times the focus is during the actions that the soldiers take, and not long after.”

Dr. Yarvis said it’s also significant the president is coming to Texas to speak about the issue, since there are so many veterans and active-duty servicemembers here. He adds that many soldiers passed through Fort Hood before heading overseas.

“So many of us rotate through that installation out to these places, you know, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, so where burn pits were, and so I think this is a great place to start,” Dr. Yarvis said.

This focus is something President Biden highlighted in his State of the Union address last week as part of his “unity agenda for the nation”

The president is expected to visit a VA hospital in Fort Worth and be briefed by doctors there before speaking with veterans, caregivers and others.

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