VA Letter Connects Agent Orange Component and Iraq War

CORPUS CHRISTI — A man who survived war, came home to fight a dangerous disease. The local veteran has been struggling with lung disease for years now and his doctors and family believe he got that disease from an enemy he couldn’t see: burn pits created by contractors working for the Department of Defense.

Now, new evidence connecting his illness with war has been uncovered.

“You go to war watching out for that fire from the enemy and all along you’re there being exposed to these poisons that have claimed the lives of many,” explained Rosie Torres.

She says poisons released from burn pits at Joint Base Balad changed her husband Leroy’s life.

Before war he worked as a state trooper, protecting our streets. During war, he protected our country. But, she claims contractors hired by the DoD did not protect him and all our armed forces from the chemicals released from the burn pits.

“From medical waste to plastic water bottles, unused pharmaceuticals, anything that would be in a community, considered as trash, it all went into the burn pit and its ten acres in size and along with whatever was being burned, right, they were using jet fuel,” she said.

The letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs confirms that and references “approximately 60 air samples at Balad from January to April 2007.” They took the samples from five different locations around Balad.

What’s critical about the letter is the identification of one dioxin in particular, TCDD. That dioxin has components similar to Agent Orange, which the VA has linked to cancers and other health problems.

The chemicals from the burn pits and TCDD are what she blames for her husband’s transition from a trooper, protecting our streets daily to a man living with constant pain and countless hospital visits.

“It’s constant medications and trips to the ER and calling 911 and the ambulance coming to pick him up and living in fetal position in his bed,” Torres described.

She and her husband started a website called Burn Pits 360. They use it to network and gather data on others who’s lives changed dramaitically because of the burn pits.

Their efforts led to the creation of a Department of Defense registry that started last summer.

The number of veterans registering is telling.

“I just got word from the DoD this morning, so far 20,000 veterans have registered,” said Torres.

So, while one war is over, for the Torres family and at least tens of thousands more, the new battle is only beginning.

“This is the new Agent Orange of this war era of veterans,” said Torres, “there’s no way of escaping that monster of exposure.”

The torres family is pushing for the VA to acknowledge burn pit exposure under the Code of Federal Regulations. That would provide immediate compensation to veterans who qualify.

Since that hasn’t yet happened, they were able get help by filing under the Gulf War Syndrome, which is not nearly as specific as they say the code needs to be.

They will attend a symposium in December to continue their push to achieve that.

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