President Joe Biden is set to sign the PACT act, legislation expanding health care benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits, on Wednesday.
Le Roy and Rosie Torres of Robstown will be at that bill signing at the White House.
Le Roy Torres, who served as an Army Captain, was deployed in Iraq from 2007-2008. He said he was exposed to fumes from burn pits and spent years getting turned down for benefits and care He was eventually diagnosed with constrictive bronchitis and toxic brain injury. Torres even lost his job as a State Trooper because of the illness.
“We were on the verge of losing our home. We exhausted our life savings in traveling to the medical facilities,” said Torres.
“We faced a system of delay and deny. We were told that, you know, don’t shoot the messenger, we are denying benefits, we are denying care and they said until an act of congress happens nothing would change,” said Rosi Torres. “So we took it into our own hands, and moved forward with a mission.”
The mission is Burn Pits 360, a veterans organization to help others affected by burn pits. The organization spent years on Capitol Hill trying to get federal legislation to help.
Torres even reached out to comedian Jon Stewart, who also advocated for 9/11 first responder health care, about the effort.
Torres and others spent six days sleeping on the Capitol steps when the Senate didn’t have the votes.
Finally, on Aug. 2, the bill was cleared and passed by the Senate. Additionally, a Supreme Court decision over Le Roy Torres’ State Trooper termination was ruled in his favor.
“It is monumental, and it is bittersweet because there are friends, advocates that I wish could be here to share this moment,” said Torres. “They’re no longer here because they have already passed on from toxic exposure issues that they battled.”
But for him, there is some closure knowing he continued the fight for those who passed away.