COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (KMTV) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is starting to offer disability compensation for veterans who developed health issues after getting exposed to burn pits.
Burn pits are what the military uses in certain areas to get rid of waste.
Iowa Native and Army veteran, Shawn Brower served in Afghanistan and calls burning trash a "daily occurrence." He vividly remembers the sights and smells of burn pits.
"A lot of the stuff we burn is really toxic, a lot of trash isn't meant to be burned, like plastics and stuff like that and those fumes," Brower said.
Tom Porter, the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for an organization called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says his lungs had an immediate and severe reaction to the pollution in the air.
"After I returned, I was diagnosed with asthma as a direct result of my deployment to Afghanistan, so that's my experience," Porter said.
Andrew Brewer, a toxic exposure researcher and fellow veteran, is also struggling with his health.
"It takes me quite a few minutes to get up a flight of stairs than a normal person walking to one side of the house, everything in my daily life. I have to slow down so I seem more normal than others," Brewer said.
Brewer says we need to take more measures to help long-suffering veterans.
"We're at where we're at, and we can't change the past, what they need to work on is trying to make sure to take care of us veterans that are struggling with these diagnoses and issues to make it easier for our healthcare," Brewer said.
Porter, in his work role, is actively advocating for Congress to pass more legislation that helps veterans.
"That's why we're trying to do what we're trying to do now, so the veterans do not have to prove through the bureaucracy of the VA that their illnesses are connected to their deployments," Porter said.
The VA is starting to process disability claims for three conditions: asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis.
To learn more visit the VA website: publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/