Ortiz Fights for Our Vets

Assemblyman Ortiz works to obtain medical treatment for military personnel exposed to depleted uranium
February 7, 2006
(Albany NY) Today, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn 51AD), stood alongside Assemblyman Dinowitz to unveil a new piece of legislation that would ensure that our state’s military personnel and veterans get the best screenings and treatment for exposure to depleted uranium (DU) and all other hazardous materials.

The effects of depleted uranium have been impacting our troops for many years. Depleted uranium is a low-level radioactive material that has been used by the Pentagon since the Persian Gulf War in artillery penetrators and in armor-plating for Abrams tanks. However it was not until recently, when our troops began returning from Iraq, that attention was drawn to the serious physical harm that it does to our soldiers. The effects range from joint pains, muscle aches, and fatigue, to birth defects and even chronic illnesses resulting in death.

Iraq war veterans Spc. Gerard Matthew and Sgt. Ray Ramos joined the Assemblyman at today’s press conference to share their experiences with the devastating chemical. Spc. Matthew arrived home from Iraq suffering from an unexplainable illness which included constant migraine headaches, and blurred vision. It was not until his baby was born with birth defects that Matthew discovered that his “illness” was the effect of exposure to depleted uranium.

Many of both Spc. Matthew’s and Sgt. Ramos’ fellow soldiers have returned from Iraq showing the same signs of exposure to the chemical that they did. These soldiers have reported being dissuaded by Army doctors from getting tested for DU.

Our bill (A.9116) would establish a task force on depleted uranium to study the health effects of the exposure to hazardous materials, including but not limited to, depleted uranium, as they relate to military service. The task force would also set up a health registry for veterans who may have been exposed since the Gulf War; develop a plan to outreach to and follow-up on exposed military personnel; and prepare a report on the effects of depleted uranium for service members and their families.

“As the new Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and as a Veteran myself, I know about the importance of protecting our troops. These men and women wake up everyday and put their lives on the line for our sake. The least we can do is afford them proper diagnoses and treatment for the dangerous chemicals we are allowing them to be exposed to”, stated Ortiz.