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WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Jen Burch is an Air Force veteran who was diagnosed with pre-cancerous nodules after she was exposed to toxic air from military burn pits in the Middle East. She, other veterans and advocates are pushing for federal legislation to ensure veterans are taken care of.

They say they need help paying for medical care caused by exposure to toxic burn pits and said it’s a matter of life and death.

“I know from experience,” Burch said, “because I tried to take my life in 2013 because I couldn’t handle it.”

Jon Stewart, long an advocate for veterans, said the VA forces vets to fight for treatment and that burden is contributing to high suicide rates.

“They’re suffering from these health effects and made to feel like they’re fraudulent, crazy, lazy,” Stewart said Tuesday.

Congressman Mark Takano, D-California, said his “Honoring Our Pact Act” would remove that burden and “will concede exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards and create presumptions for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers.

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on Takano’s legislation next week but the Senate broke up the legislation into three parts. The Senate passed one bill but it’s unclear if they will pass the portion that presumes exposure. A battle is also expected over how to pay for expanded benefits.

“Damn,” Stewart said. “They should be ashamed. How dare they!”

Advocates said there ought to be money to support these veterans in a $700 billion annual defense budget.