Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered bilingual remarks at a press conference to announce landmark legislation, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act (S. 952). In addition to Rubio, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), veterans advocate Jon Stewart, U.S. Congressmen Raul Ruiz M.D. (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), 9/11 responder and advocate John Feal, and an array of veterans groups also spoke about the legislation. The bill would streamline the process for veterans to obtain VA benefits for burn pits and other toxic exposures by removing the burden of proof required by the VA to prove a servicemember’s exposure.

 
A transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. View his remarks on Youtube here and download a broadcast quality version here
 
“[Senator Gillibrand] has been an incredible advocate on this and so many other issues and it’s a pleasure to work with you. I wish we didn’t have to work on this, but we do. Even at this very moment, somewhere in this country, a young man or woman is being recruited into the Armed Forces of the United States with a fundamental promise, and that is you’re going to have the opportunity to serve your country, you may be sent to dangerous places to do dangerous things, but when you come home, we’re always going to take care of you. It is a fundamental promise this nation stands behind and makes, yet isn’t living up to when it comes to the stories you’ve heard here today. Powerful stories that we can’t add anything to other than to say that we have an obligation to act. 
 
“It’s an issue I don’t really understand the opposition to. Part of the issue is they say, ‘oh I want to study it further’, well we don’t have time for studies. People who are being impacted by this don’t have the benefit of a several year study where some expert will eventually conclude, whatever they conclude, it’ll be too late. It’ll be too late by then. This is happening now and for too many it’s already too late. 
 
“And so I hope common sense will prevail. Because at the end of the day, for those people who say, “Oh, well, this has not been conclusively linked” [and] all these other arguments they make to me, I ask, “What’s the worst possible outcome that could happen here” according to them? The worst possible outcome, according to their view of this, would be that a man or a woman who served this nation in a dangerous place in uniform is going to get medical attention for a condition they’ve come down with here state-side, after their service abroad. 
 
“How is that a bad outcome for the country? I think Senator Gillibrand has pointed out to those who argue about the money, then don’t write checks that you don’t have funds in the account for. Because this is the price of sending men and women to dangerous places to do dangerous things in uncertain environments. And I hope that we will act.”
 
Details
The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act would remove the “burden of proof” from the veteran to provide enough evidence to establish a direct service connection between their health condition and exposure to burn pits and toxins. Rather, the veteran would only need to submit documentation that they received a campaign medal associated with the Global War on Terror or the Gulf War and they suffer from a qualifying health condition. Campaign medals are awarded to members of the armed forces who deploy for military operations in a designated combat zone or geographical theater for more than 31 days consecutively.