Biden Sign Bill helps veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Wednesday signed into law a bill expanding medical benefits for veterans exposure to toxins from burning garbage pits in military basesending a years-long journey of support by veterans and their families.

The issue is deeply personal for the president, who has long guess that his son Beau developed brain cancer from exposure to burns while he was serving in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard. Before signing the legislation, Mr. Biden described the lingering effects of exposure.

“Toxic smoke, thick with poison, spread through the air and into the lungs of our troops,” he said. “When they returned home, many of the strongest and best warriors we sent to war were not the same. Headache, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son, Beau, is one of them. “

During a ceremony attended by veterans and their families in the East Room of the White House, Mr Biden called the new legislation progressive in fulfilling a “sacred duty” to those who defend the country and their families. their family. The legislation passed despite a last-minute delay by Republican senators, who blocked travel but backed off after a backlash.

“This is the most important law our nation has ever passed to help the millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service,” Biden said, adding a few minutes later. That law: “This law is long overdue. We finally finished it together. “

The act addresses the effects some veterans experience after sleeping and working near large fires on military bases where garbage – including tires, jet fuel, chemicals and other devices – burned, creating large plumes of smoke. Research shows that toxins in secondhand smoke can contribute to a range of illnesses experienced by veterans, including cancer, bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, sleep apnea, bronchitis, and asthma. Sinusitis.

The new law, called the PACT Act, makes it easier for veterans who believe they have been exposed to toxins during service to apply for Medicaid benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The act created a $280 billion stream of federal funding, making it one of the largest veterans benefit expansions in U.S. history.

In his remarks, Mr. Biden praised family members and activists over the years, excluding comedian Jon Stewart, for his fiery and sometimes angry demands that the Politicians must pass a bill.

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

Mr. Stewart, who has been lobbying for the bill for many years, has especially the voice last month, when Republican senators abruptly refused to support the measure, citing concerns that it was structured in a way that could create a costly new right. The bill had passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, and opposing Republican senators had voiced support just weeks before.

Appearing on CNN after Republicans blocked the bill, Mr. Stewart was blunt, helping to fuel the backlash that led to the final passage of the bill days later.

“I am used to lying. I am used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice,” Mr Stewart told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead”. “I’m not used to cruelty, conventional cruelty.”

In his remarks Wednesday, Mr. Biden made no mention of Republican obstruction. Instead, he focused on the deal’s bipartisan nature, citing its passage as proof that he has made good on his promise to narrow the ideological divide in the capital. country to get the job done.

“I don’t want to hear the press tell me that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party cannot work together,” he said. “We’re done, and we’re done together.”

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

In her own speech at the White House, Ms. Robinson described how her husband developed cancer a decade after returning from combat. She thanked Mr. Biden and other activists for pushing lawmakers to pass legislation to make treatment and Medicaid easier in the wake of similar incidents.

“Many veterans are still fighting potty burns today,” she said. “Too many people have had to deal with those diseases. And I’m honored to be with the father of another military family who understands the ultimate sacrifice as well as we do – our commander-in-chief, President Joe Biden. “

Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

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