Rochester veteran who advocated for PACT Act joins Senator Schumer at State of the Union

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Senator Chuck Schumer brought an army veteran from Rochester with him as a guest to President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Kevin Kozlowski, who served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne division, advocated for Congress to pass the PACT Act to help the estimated 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits. President Biden signed the PACT Act law on August 8.

Burn pits are areas used to discard trash by incinerating it, which were common around U.S. military camps in Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies have since linked burn pits to cancer, asthma, and other chronic health problems.

News10NBC interviewed Kozlowski last April, where he spoke about being exposed to burn pits while serving in Iraq. Kozlowski said he slept just feet away from a burn pit and had trouble breathing a few years after he came home.

“I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and I can’t breathe or during the day, walking up and down the stairs I couldn’t breathe,” he told News10NBC.

Kozlowski also suffered from migraines, gastrointestinal issues, COPD, and asthma after serving according to a release from Schumer. Now, Kozlowski is helping veterans across Monroe County including those who have filed for benefits under the PACT Act.

Schumer, who also advocated for the PACT Act, said he feels honored to have Kozlowski as a guest.

“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,” Schumer said.

After the PACT Act was signed, veterans no longer needed to prove that their illness was caused by burn pit exposure in order to receive disability payments. Before, around 70% of disability claims related to burn pit exposure were denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to a lack of evidence.

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