President Joe Biden signed the Veterans Health Care Bill into law on Wednesday that ends a long battle to extend benefits to people who served near burning fireplaces.
This is a personal issue for Biden. His son Beau was a Major in the Delaware National Guard and died of cancer after serving in Iraq.
“Toxic, thick smoke of poison that spreads through the air and into the lungs of our troops. When they returned home, many of the fittest and best warriors we sent to war were no longer the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them,” Biden said.
The bill will help veterans obtain disability benefits without having to prove that their illness was the result of their service. Other health care services will also be expanded.
“This new law is important. It matters a lot,” Biden said.
Burn pits have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of chemicals, cans, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste.
After signing the bill, Biden handed his pen to Brielle Robinson, the daughter of a veteran who died from exposure to a toxic burn pit. His mother, Danielle, who introduced the president, pushed for the legislation after her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson died of lung cancer. Both were guests of First Lady Jill Biden at this year’s State of the Union address.
The bipartisan bill is known as the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT Act.
Biden also thanked artist Jon Stewart for his work supporting veterans with burn heart disease. “We owe you a lot,” Biden told Stewart, who attended the signing ceremony.
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