Biden Signs ‘Burn Pit’ Bill To Aid Veterans Exposed To Toxins
Joe Biden signed into law a bill expanding health care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden signed into law a bill expanding health care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, one of a series of breakthroughs in Congress this summer.
“This is the most significant law our nation has ever had passed to help millions of veterans who are exposed to toxic substances,” Biden said at a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, where he was joined by veterans, their families, and congressional lawmakers.
The president also spoke about the impact to his own family. Biden lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015. Beau Biden served in Iraq near burn pits, and Biden has suggested that the toxins from the pits may have caused the disease.
“Many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them,” Biden said.
The measure, known as the PACT Act, expands veterans’ health-care eligibility to about 3.5 million people exposed to toxic burn pits while serving overseas. The pits, used to burn fuel, chemicals, and other waste, have been linked to certain illnesses because of the toxins present in the smoke.
Beyond aiding veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the bill would also expand coverage for illnesses potentially linked to the Agent Orange herbicide used in the Vietnam War.
The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly. It had briefly stalled when GOP senators refused to pass the bill until there was a vote on an amendment that addressed mandatory spending. The amendment failed, and some Democrats claimed the Republicans delayed the process to retaliate against the long-negotiated deal reached by Democrats on the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed Sunday.
Veterans groups and comedian Jon Stewart had camped out at the Capitol to draw attention to the legislation and to push Republicans to act.
The bill is one of a series of legislative wins for Biden and Democrats. Biden signed another bill, which subsidizes semiconductor chip manufacturing in the US, on Tuesday, and is poised to sign the Democratic tax, climate and health bill this month, once it clears the House.
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