Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Hate The War

Iraq War veteran Captain Leroy Torres was exposed to burn pits while serving in Iraq and, like many other Americans exposed in Afghanistan and Iraq, he suffers from the exposure. His wife Rosie Torres has shared what it's like to be a family dealing with the effects of exposure to burn pits.

The barriers faced by those affected by toxic exposure stem from the various components that define the word Toxic Exposures and Burn Pits. It's those same barriers that for thousands of reservists and their families have left them financially, emotionally, and mentally broken. Our story is far too familiar for those that have been affected, so here is our story. I am the wife of Captain Leroy Torres, prior to his deployment I was working full time for the Department Of Veteran Affairs and he served a dual role in his community as both a full time State Trooper for the State of Texas and a U.S. Army Reservist. Our salaries combined placed us comfortably in the bracket of about $90,000 a year, but all that changed the day he stepped foot onto the airbase in Balad, Iraq. Camp Anaconda, the FOB with the largest Burn Pit in existence, the place where all of our dreams and hopes turned into toxic chemicals. The same chemicals that followed us home and have haunted us for the past 3 years.

For thousands of reservists the story goes like this, the soldier returns from war and immediately the effects of toxic exposure surface like the invisible wounds that they are. The soldier begins seeking treatment at various healthcare facilities only to discover that neither DOD nor VA is acknowledging toxic exposure from particulate matter or burn pits. The only option left if you happen to be blessed with the luxury of private insurance is to seek specialized healthcare in the private sector. Desperately seeking answers to the question of why this once active and healthy soldier can no longer function at the capacity that he/she once did. Why the once healthy father/mother, husband, wife, daughter, son can no longer breathe, why the diagnosis of cancer, why the white matter and the lesions in the brain, the fertility issues, the fatigue, the parasitic infections, the list goes on and on. The family spends their life savings traveling to access specialized healthcare from the physicians they call their heroes. The only healthcare providers brave enough to stand behind the truth of how toxic chemicals affect the body.

The family exhausts all of their finances to gain answers, the soldier can no longer work due to multiple diagnosis and symptoms immediately forcing the once successful career person to give up their life-long dreams. The reservists files an LOD which can take up to two years, the veteran files a claim with the VA which will never grant a rating compensation because there is no category for toxic exposures. All of this forces the family into an abyss of darkness, mental stress, financial stress, and denial of acceptance to their new way of life. The once productive, healthy, and functioning military family is suddenly falling apart at the seams. The gap between VA and DOD for the reservist component of the military service members wounded must be bridged by identifying the needs of those affected immediately. Too many people are losing their homes, their life savings, and their hope, hope in a system that once promised to care for them once they returned.

As I watch my husband deteriorate before my eyes, I wonder what happened to that Captain that stood tall and strong, the father that ran 2 miles twice a week with his boys, the state police officer that served on the tactical squad, and the husband that could run circles around me but instead he is now a patient of doctors from every specialty, pulmonary, neurology, Gastroenterology, Infectious disease.

As I walked into the waiting room of the State Department of Human Services to ask for public assistance I thought to myself how can this be possible. What happened to the Captain's wife, to the once full time VA employee, why have we lost our medical tricare insurance for our children, why are we asking for help? My husband holds a masters degree and we are both educated professionals, what happened to our lives? The toxic exposures from the burn pits from war happened to our lives and to thousands of others coming home. It's only a matter of time.

We noted that two other times today. I wanted to be sure that everyone saw it. (We'll note it at Third as well on Sunday.) Raising kids is a job enough for most parents. Trying to deal with a condition that the government doesn't really want to acknowledge at the same time? An illness you now have as a result of deploying as you were instructed to do and the government wants to pretend it doesn't exist because, if it exists, that means money -- money to care for the illness, money to make up for the damages. The same US government that regularly wants other countries to pay (be it Iraq for the war with Kuwait or what have you), wants to worm off the hook of responsibility, wants to grandstand in front of the nation Tuesday night, yammering on about how great US troops are but doesn't want pony up the money required to ease their suffering.

Rosie Torres is the executive director of BurnPits 360:

BurnPits360 is serving as a pathway of advocacy to assist veterans, their families, and civilian contractors who have been negatively affected by toxic burn pits. Contractors were assigned the task of properly disposing of any and all trash on military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in the Middle East. Unfortunately, instead of using incinerators, the contractors disposed of the waste through toxic burn pits and now thousands of veterans have been put at serious risk.
BurnPits360 is inviting anyone that has been affected from exposure to toxic burn pits and environmental hazards to sign up on the registry. We are conducting a voluntary cohort anonymous study with Dr. Szema at Stony Brook University. The study simply requires self-reporting your information on the online registry, providing a proof of military service (DD-214), a signed legal consent form, and additional questionnaires. This study will help to provide vital information to doctors and researchers that will help properly diagnose and treat the vast array of medical complications arising from these exposures. It will provide the Department Of Defense and the Department Of Veteran Affairs with data that will allow them to develop a healthcare model for specialized healthcare specific to toxic exposures and environmental hazards.
The importance of this registry is to serve as a model for all military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families to self-report injuries and deaths from toxic exposure from burn pits and other environmental hazards. It will also assist in proving causation and the correlation between the exposure and the illness, as well as determine all areas of possible exposure. It will provide the VA with the data needed to develop legislative language for the development of a compensation and pension category specific to toxic exposures.
Most importantly, this study is completely anonymous. None of your personal information will be shared at any time. (In such cases where information would ever need to be made public, it would not be done so without the members written consent, whereas the veteran, contractor, and/or their family have the option to decline to participate at that time.)
Should you be interested in participating in the study, please contact Burn Pits 360 via email [] or by telephone [361-816-4015].

Former Senator Evan Bayh championed a national burn pit registry. He went so far as to present his bill to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in a hearing (Bayh did not serve on the Committee, he did serve on the Democratic Policy Committee where he, former Senator Byron Dorgan and others explored the realities of burn pits at great length). The bill never left Committee. Senator Jim Webb opposed it. He felt it was too costly. The same reason he would later grouse that Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki expansion of Agent Orange victims from the Vietnam era cost too much money.

Senator Webb, himself a veteran, supports other veterans . . . As long as it doesn't cost money. Sadly, that seems to be the way the government shows its support as well.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4487. Tonight it's [PDF format warning] 4488. Here's the screen snap:


If that's not a mistake, the death is from pre-September 1, 2010 (or an injury pre-September 1, 2010?) because, notice, that's where the increase is.


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