The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Participates in Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Toxic Exposure Roundtable

TAPS representative advocates for legislation to ensure service members, veterans and their survivors receive the care and benefits they have earned.


Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT) held a virtual roundtable discussion on June 17, 2020 with stakeholders, and veterans and survivor advocates to address critical issues associated with the effects of toxic exposure on our nation’s service members and veterans. 

Coleen Bowman, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Senior Advisor for Illness Loss, participated in this important roundtable. As the wife of Sergeant Major Rob Bowman who died from a rare cancer that was caused from exposure to toxins while deployed, she has made it her mission to bring awareness to the effects of toxic exposure and honor Rob’s legacy of selfless service. 

Ms. Bowman shared with the committee that Sergeant Major Bowman was the picture of health before he deployed to Iraq, and when he returned from his second deployment from Iraq, he was sick. “Had we known he had been exposed and to what toxins, we could’ve shared the information with doctors, and it wouldn’t have taken six months of misdiagnoses before we learned he had stage 4 inoperable cancer,” she said. “Had we known earlier he might still be alive today.” 

“For 19 months my daughters and I cared for him and on January 13, 2013 at the age of 44, he died,” Ms. Bowman said. Adding, “Rob wasn’t angry. He was proud to serve. He made me promise to tell his story and help save others. He considered it his last gift of leadership.” 

Since 2013, Ms. Bowman has spoken with survivors and veterans who are unaware of the toxins they were exposed to and haven’t received the care and benefits they need. “TAPS believes educating our mil/vet community and their providers, military and civilian, is paramount. They must know when and where they were exposed and to what. They must receive treatment and benefits,” she stated. 

“On behalf of TAPS, Ms. Bowman advocated for legislation that requires collection of information regarding exposures, requires VA to apply service connection as appropriate, ensure healthcare, and guarantee death benefits for all who have been and will be exposed to toxins since 9/11, to which a number of committee members indicated that they agreed,” said Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of TAPS.  

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) expressed his condolences and committed to the cause to which she described. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also commended Ms. Bowman and indicated his support of her efforts. 

TAPS applauds Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Tester for hosting this important roundtable on the damaging effects of toxic exposure on service members, veterans and their families. TAPS continues to look forward to working with the committee to address this issue and ensure veterans and their survivors receive the care and benefits they have earned.



The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the leading national organization providing compassionate care and survivor support services for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since 1994, TAPS has offered support to more than 90,000 survivors of fallen military in the form of peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, casework assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been profoundly affected by a death of a military loved one. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277). 

Media Interviews: Please contact or 202.588.8277 to arrange interviews with TAPS staff and survivors.