Biden Signs Bill to Help Veterans Who Were Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

WASHINGTON – President Biden signed a bill Wednesday that expands medical benefits for veterans. Exposure to toxins from waste pits burned at military basesThe end of a years-long search for support for veterans and their families.

This issue is very personal for the President Long guess His son Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer while serving in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard. Before signing the legislation, Mr. Biden described the long-term effects of the exposure.

“Poisonous smoke, thick with poison, wafts through the air and into the lungs of our troops,” he said. “When they came home, they were not the same as many of the fittest and best warriors we had sent to war. Headache, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son, Beau, was one of them.

At a ceremony packed with veterans and their families in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Biden called the new law progress toward fulfilling a “sacred duty” for those who protect the nation and their families. The legislation passed despite a last-minute delay by Republican senators, who blocked its passage but backed down after a strong backlash.

“This is the most important legislation our nation has ever passed to help the millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service,” Mr. Biden said, adding minutes later: “This legislation is long overdue. In the end we made it through together.”

The legislation addresses the effects some veterans suffered after sleeping and working near large fires on military bases where waste — including tires, jet fuel, chemicals and other equipment — burned and created large clouds of smoke. Research indicates that the toxins in smoke can contribute to many diseases such as cancer, bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, sleep apnea, bronchitis and sinusitis.

The new law, known as the PACT Act, makes it easier for veterans who believe they were exposed to toxic substances during their service to apply for medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The law creates a $280 billion stream of federal funding, making it the largest expansion of veterans’ benefits in American history.

In his remarks, Mr. Biden praised the years of work by family members and activists, including comedian Jon Stewart for his emotional and sometimes angry demands that politicians pass the bill.

“What you did, John, is important, and you know it is,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Stewart, who was in the room for the signing ceremony. “You should know. It’s really, really important. You refuse to forget anybody. You refuse to let them forget, and man, we owe you a lot.”

It was Mr. Stewart who lobbied for the bill for years Especially vocal last month, when Republican senators abruptly refused to support the measure, citing concerns it was structured in a way that could create a costly new entitlement. The legislation was passed in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and Republican senators who objected expressed their strong support just weeks ago.

Appearing on CNN after Republicans blocked the bill, Mr. Stewart was sullen, helping to spark a strong backlash that led to the bill’s final passage days later.

“I have a habit of lying. I am used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice,” Mr. Stewart told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead” program. “I’m not used to cruelty, casual cruelty.”

Mr. Biden did not mention Republican obstruction in his remarks on Wednesday. Instead, he focused on the bipartisan nature of the deal, as evidence that he had fulfilled his promise to bridge ideological divides in the nation’s capital.

“I don’t want to hear the press say that Democrats, Republicans can’t work together,” he said. “We got it done and we got it together.”

Danielle Robinson, wife of Sgt. Heath Robinson, who died of lung cancer after serving in Iraq, spent years helping fight for new veterans benefits. The law was named after her husband.

In her own remarks at the White House, Ms. Robinson described how her husband developed cancer a decade after returning from the war. She thanked Mr. Biden and other activists for pushing for legislation that would make it easier to get medical treatment and benefits after similar exposures.

“Many veterans still struggle with burn pit illnesses today,” she said. “Many have succumbed to those diseases as well. And I’m honored to be with another military family father who understands the ultimate sacrifice as we do – our Commander in Chief, President Joe Biden. “

Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

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