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Robstown group pushing for bill helping veterans exposed to toxins

Posted at 3:13 PM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 20:21:24-05

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa filed a bill that would help veterans who are suffering from health problems related to their service.

The legislation, filed on Monday, has been an aim of a Robstown organization for years.

Burn Pits 360 is a veterans support group that works with veterans who were exposed to toxins while serving overseas. Now, the nonprofit is on a new mission – to create a state open burn pits registry.

For Rosie Torres, the executive director of Burn Pits 360, this is a fight that hits close to home. Her husband, Leroy Torres, served in the army. He was diagnosed with a lung condition that doctors say is related to his service in Iraq.

“[It’s] A disease that may eventually claim his life,” Rosie Torres said.

Together, Rosie and Leroy founded Burn Pits 360. Now, they’ve made it their goal to lobby state lawmakers to create an open burn pits registry in Texas.

“I don’t want to sit idle, and just watch this become what it’s becoming,” Rosie Torres said.

The registry would identify veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now have health issues. It would help researchers understand the effects of exposure to toxins. The registry would also help veterans receive health care and benefits.

In 2017, Burn Pits 360 pushed for a similar bill, but it didn’t pass. This time around, the group has the support of State Rep. Abel Herrero and Hinojosa.

“We plan to focus on Texas veterans,” Hinojosa said. “So when they come back from war, we have to support them.”

Hinojosa adds the registry would also educate the public about toxins veterans may have been exposed to. Meanwhile, Rosie Torres says this kind of resource would have been useful to he family.

“[It’s so] these families don’t suffer the hardship that we have as a family,” Rosie Torres said.

There is already a national airborne hazards and open burn pit registry. However, it doesn’t allow veterans to update changes in their health. The registry also doesn’t list the number of veterans’ deaths.