SCHUMER WILL BRING FINGER LAKES VET, KEVIN KOZLOWSKI, TO STATE OF THE UNION; SENATOR STOOD WITH ROCHESTER VETERANS TO FIGHT TO EXTEND VA CARE TO VETS EXPOSED TO BURN PITS & OTHER TOXINS LEADING TO THE HONORING OUR PACT ACT PASSING–NOW TENS OF THOUSANDS OF NY VETS ARE ABLE TO RECEIVE THE MEDICAL CARE THEY EARNED
Schumer Led PACT Act To Passage After Years Of Fighting Alongside NY Vets To Extend VA Care; Veterans Like Rochester’s Kevin Kozlowski Had Struggled To Receive Coverage For Long-Term Health Effects—From Cancers To Respiratory Illnesses—Caused By Toxins In Burn Pit Smoke
Schumer: Every Breath Our Veterans Take Is A Reminder Of Their Sacrifice, It Is Because of Advocacy Of Vets Like Kevin Millions Will Now Receive The Benefits And Healthcare They Desperately Deserved
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that he will bring Rochester’s Kevin Kozlowski, a U.S Army 82nd Airborne Veteran, as his guest to attend President Biden’s State of the Union address. Last year, Schumer stood alongside Kozlowski to launch his push for the Senate to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act to health coverage for veterans like Kevin who were exposed to burn pit smoke and other environmental hazards that caused cancers and other illnesses during their service. Now, after relentless advocacy from Schumer, tens of thousands of vets across New York like Kevin are able to get the medical treatment they deserve.
“It is my honor to announce that Kevin Kozlowski, a U.S Army 82nd Airborne Veteran from the Finger Lakes, will be my guest to President Biden’s State of the Union address. Kevin fought for our country, but when he got home after serving overseas, he had to fight another war for the healthcare he deserved. Tens of thousands of New York veterans, and over three and a half million vets across America, have been exposed to toxins from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan in the line of duty, and for too long, bureaucratic rules denied them treatment for cancers, respiratory diseases, and countless other illnesses incurred while fighting for our freedom,” said Senator Schumer. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with Kevin, we launched our push correct this injustice and I am proud to have lead the Honoring Our Pact Act to passage this past year to extend this critical care to our nation’s veterans. Every breath our veterans take is a reminder of their sacrifice for our country, and I can think of no better person than the Finger Lakes’ own Kevin Kozlowski to join me at the State of the Union for helping raise awareness and delivering this long overdue legislation.”
U.S Army 82nd Airborne Veteran Kevin Kozlowski said, “When I got back from Iraq, I started noticing my breathing was getting bad and soon my symptoms grew worse and included migraines and gastrointestinal issues. Finally, I was diagnosed with COPD and asthma and was told it’s due to burn pit exposure and the toxins that I was exposed to in Iraq. Last year, I stood side by side with Senator Schumer to advocate for the PACT Act to ensure veterans get the care they deserve and I’m glad to join him at the State of the Union to celebrate that he delivered not only for myself but for over 200,000 veterans and their family members across the United States who were now able to successfully file VA claims and receive the compensation that they rightfully deserve. Since the PACT Act was passed, in Monroe County alone, I continue to work with veterans and surviving spouses, and VA claims are being filed at a rapid rate."
“Kevin Kozlowski is a proud son of Monroe County who fought for our country as a paratrooper in Iraq and continues to fight for veterans as a service officer with our Monroe County Veterans Service Agency,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Kevin suffered lasting lung damage and asthma from exposure to toxins from burn pits in Iraq only to return home to fight again for the necessary healthcare benefits for himself and for other War on Terror veterans that were exposed to burn pits. Thank you Senator Schumer for supporting Kevin and other veterans with the PACT act so they can get the healthcare they deserve. All of Monroe County will be standing with Kevin tonight at the State of the Union Address.”
In April of last year, Schumer stood alongside Kevin and other Finger Lakes veterans suffering from conditions related to toxic exposure during their service and not receiving the care they deserve. Kevin served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, but had no idea the dangers of his service would linger for years after he returned from Iraq. After returning to the U.S. Kevin began to have breathing issues, with symptoms eventually also including migraines and gastrointestinal issues, before being diagnosed with COPD and asthma due to his exposure to burn pits during service. Schumer pledged to Kevin that he would not stop until legislation was passed to extend vets exposed like him the care they deserved. After rallying support with vets across New York from CNY to Long Island, Schumer successfully helped lead to passage the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (Honoring Our PACT Act), delivering on his promise.
The Honoring Our PACT Act expands health care access for veterans affected by exposure to harmful substances, toxins, and other environmental hazards, including from burn pits, which put service members in Iraq and Afghanistan in proximity of airborne hazards with the open-air combustion of trash and other waste like chemicals and munitions. Toxins in burn pit smoke have been shown to potentially have long-term effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract, and internal organs, and veterans often faced a complicated disability benefit claims process at the VA to get access to the health care they needed. Schumer said legislation has helped extend VA health care to the tens of thousands of toxic-exposed veterans in New York and benefits to their survivors, and 3.5 million veterans nationally exposed to toxic substances during their service even if they do not have a service-connected disability.