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Bi-partisan bill would help extend healthcare coverage to veterans exposed to toxins

The bill, sponsored by senators Rubio and Gillibrand, deals with veterans who have been exposed to smoke from burn pits or from toxins such as Agent Orange.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — New help could be on the way for veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances while on active duty if a new bill passes through the United States Congress. 

The bill's sponsors, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), made an announcement Wednesday that the bill will be heard in the senate, and they expect it to receive bi-partisan support. 

It deals with veterans who have been exposed to smoke from burn pits or from toxins such as Agent Orange.

The bill would expand Veterans Affairs health care eligibility to post 9-11 veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans. 

It would add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the VA's list of service presumptions and expand conditions the VA acknowledges are likely caused by Agent Orange exposure.

 And it would also strengthen federal research on toxic exposure..

Francis Len Loving leads the Five Star Veterans Center in Jacksonville. He said the bill is a good idea. He said veterans need help with toxin exposure sometimes immediately upon returning home or years after serving overseas.

"Obviously, it affected those who worked directly with it, but it also had a secondary effect because it would drift into the living area where people were, the smoke would," Loving said. 

He applauded the bill, saying it would help the veteran as well as the veteran's families.

A similar version of this bill passed the U.S. House earlier this year. If this bill passes a senate vote, it will be heard in the House. 

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