COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — There is some medical relief in sight for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation late Tuesday that will allow those veterans to more easily receive the healthcare they need.

A couple of months ago when Sen. Jon Ossoff was in Columbus he told us this legislation was a priority.

“We got it done,” he said in an interview with WRBL on Wednesday afternoon. “And it’s long overdue for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But last night we passed this historic legislation that ensures veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic contamination will get those full health benefits that they have needed for a long time, that they have earned and they deserve.”

For one Texas veteran and his mother, the news comes too late.

John Wangler died at 28 years old in 2017. His mother says it was from respiratory illnesses caused by his exposure to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She is relieved that others will get the health care benefits they earned.

“I am very happy that his friends will have access to more health options, better health care. I refer to the burn pits being as being this generation’s agent orange,” said Cindy Wangler/Son of a Marine who died in 2017

“That’s exactly what it is,” Ossoff said.

The legislation will expand benefits for an estimated 3.5 million veterans. The bill will lessen the burden of proof from veterans seeking care for conditions related to exposure from burn pits. It presumes that conditions, including several cancers and respiratory illnesses, are related to the exposure.

The bi-partisan burn pit legislation got caught in a political tug of war and it looked like Republican senators who had previously supported it may have killed last week.

“It was politics, and I don’t know when this huge divide in our country started but this is not a right or a left issue,” Wangler said. “These boys volunteered to go and defend our country. … And our government provides healthcare for them as part of their service but yet they throw up obstacles at every possible turn to make it possible for them to seek care.”

Taking care of those who elected to fight should be the nation’s highest priority, Ossoff said.

“When the U.S. government sends its forces into harm’s way, the government assumes a sacred obligation to care for them when they get home. And in war after war after war, whether it’s agent orange in Vietnam, are Gulf War syndrome or burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government has failed to stand up for American veterans. And it’s a disgrace.”

This bill passed 86-11 and is now awaiting the signature of President Biden. The president has attributed his son, Beau’s death, to toxic burn pit exposure.

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock joined Ossoff in voting for the legislation. Alabama’s two Republican senators – Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville – voted against it.