COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)- After fighting for our country, some veterans in Ohio say they have come home only to fight for their lives. While serving overseas, many say they were exposed to toxic burn pits, which led to life-altering or even ending conditions.
Many veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are familiar with burn pits, including Andrea Neutzling.
“They are constantly burning, always burning and when I say trash I mean like everything from our base,” said Neutzling.
Plastic, batteries, and human waste are some of the things Neutzling said were burned in these pits. Thousands of veterans are now claiming to be ill from breathing in the smoke, including Neutzling. These veterans also said it has been a fight to get the VA to help them.
“He served his country for 14 years and here he’s dying from serving his country and they are not taking care of him in a way that they should be,” said Danielle Robinson.
For more than a decade, Danielle’s husband Heath served in the Ohio National Guard, and at the age of 35, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He told Danielle he had been exposed to burn pits.
“The oncologist right away was shocked and gave him four to six weeks to live,” said Robinson.
Heath died at the age of 39. Danielle said, in the last year of his life, the family had to fight the VA for his benefits. In Congress, there are several bills working on making it easier for these veterans to get help. One of them, introduced by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman, is named the Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act.
“The Department of Defense has to do better high up people in the department of defense we’re pretty certain knew about this,” said Senator Brown, (D) Ohio.
For now, people like Neutzling continue to fight for benefits.
“We died in Iraq our bodies just don’t really know it yet because of where we’re just slowly being killed by our lungs,” said Neutzling.
The VA has established a registry for veterans and the Department of Defense says they are committed to studying the exposure so they can provide better care to veterans.