OAN’s Brooke Mallory
6:04 PM – Tuesday, October 3, 2023
A jury awarded $2.49 million to an Army veteran who was discharged following the onset of a crippling disease brought on by exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq.
According to Military.com, Le Roy Torres, a former Army captain, won a case last week against the state of Texas due to the state breaking the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act.
In the civil trial, a jury of six people returned a unanimous verdict in Torres’ favor.
In 2017, Torres filed a lawsuit alleging that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) had rejected his request to continue working as an administrator for the highway patrol. Instead, he claimed, the state refused him a disability retirement pension, forcing him to retire.
DPS maintained that the state legislature had to provide its assent before it could be sued. The case was sent back to Texas where the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Torres.
After a “grueling” battle, Torres made a statement to Military.com on Monday, saying that he felt justified by the Friday ruling.
“As citizen soldiers, we deserve to keep our professions when we return from serving our nation such as a deployment, subsequently accommodating the injured veteran if they return with certain limitations,” Torres told Military.com. “We should not have to bear the burden alone due to illnesses or injuries caused by the instrumentality of war.”
Brian Lawler, Torres’s lawyer, asserted that the DPS completely ignored Torres.
“After Dec. 16, 2011… No one from the Department of Public Safety contacted Le Roy to tell him what was going on and there was no evidence at all (literally none) that DPS looked for another position for him to fill, despite their lawful, affirmative duty to do so,” Lawler said in a statement.
When Torres was sent to Iraq in 2007, he contracted constrictive bronchiolitis, a disease that obliterates the lung’s airways. Bronchiolitis makes breathing extremely difficult, exhausting people who are affected.
He had previously been posted to Joint Base Balad, where one of the biggest burn pits was utilized by American soldiers to get rid of rubbish produced by the facility, including regular trash, medical waste, electronics, batteries, plastics, and more.
Torres was eventually found to have both an autoimmune disease and a traumatic brain injury.
Torres, an Army reserve officer, and his wife Rosie spearheaded a ten-year campaign to have burn pits recognized as a health danger and to pass historic legislation that would give sick veterans benefits.
He is also the co-founder of Burn Pits 360, which is a 501c3 non-profit veterans organization.
“Our mission is simple but strong – educate everyone on the impact of toxic chemical exposure, advocate for those harmed, and empower Veterans and their families to stand up for our community,” the website states.
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