Still no answers from the Pentagon on how they'll help service members and veterans affected by burn pits.
"The secretary has been committed to expanding access to resources and access to care for military members and will continue to push through with that," Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan R Hoffman said during Thursday's weekly DoD briefing.
"The secretary will be participating in the [Veteran's Day] event with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs," Hoffman said. "They talk frequently about these veterans issues, and we’ve just had a series of meetings with the VSOs where issues like this were discussed."
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will be attending a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery before joining President Donald Trump in New York City for the Veterans Day Parade — Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie will also be attending.
One in three service members report “definite or probable exposure to environmental hazards” and one of every four troops report “persistent health concerns due to deployment exposures,” according to the VA. Army Gen. David Petraeus called it America’s “sacred obligation” to care for these service members.
At the end of September, senators questioned the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding what was taking so long to provide benefits to veterans exposed to potentially lethal toxins. VA officials could not fully answer that question.
In the meantime, Esper and Wilkie have reiterated their commitment to service members affected by burn pits.
Esper said so himself — and praised Wilkie for his similar commitment — this past summer at the first on-camera Pentagon press briefing in a year.
"This goes back to my days in the service," Esper responded when asked about caring for veterans affected by burn pits. "After my tour in the Gulf War, we had Gulf War syndrome...Still, many folks suffer from it. The VA has the lead on this — I haven't talked to VA Secretary Wilkie in a while, but he and I go back many years. He is completely committed to our service members and the veterans and this is one of the areas where I want to improve and make sure we're doing everything we can to assist soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as they transition out of the service into the VA system."