Biden signs law in favor of veterans exposed to fire pits

President Biden has signed a bill to improve health benefits for veterans exposed to the effects of toxic burns abroad.

In a ceremony that was both a personal and political victory, Biden introduced the bill on Wednesday that he made a signature target, not least because his late son, Beau Biden, died of cancer after serving in Kosovo and Iraq. .

“We owe you something,” Biden said in an emotional ceremony. “You are the backbone. You are the steel. You are the tendon. You are the fiber that makes this country what it is.”

The bill marks the culmination of years of struggle to help veterans exposed to toxic chemicals while serving abroad.

Fire pits were used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of chemicals, cans, tires, plastic, medical equipment and human waste. However, 70% of disability claims related to pit exposure were rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The legislation will lead officials to believe that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers are linked to burn exposure, giving veterans disability benefits without having to prove the illness resulted from their service.

“My message to 3.5 million veterans potentially affected by fire pits: don’t be afraid to step forward, come forward,” said John Feal, a veteran and advocate of 9/11 first responders.

“Finally, today we honor the members of the service and their families who have given everything for our country,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.)

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill last week after Republicans briefly held it up in a row over unrelated Democratic push for a climate and spending bill.

The legislation is expected to cost about $280 billion over the next decade.

Veteran groups and comedian Jon Stewart called Republicans hypocrites for giving lip service to vets while refusing to vote for their health care.

Stewart enjoyed a shout-out from Biden and a standing ovation at the White House signing ceremony.

Although the facility with burn marks has received the most attention, other care facilities will also be expanded.

Veterans who have served since the September 11 attacks have a decade to sign up for VA health care, double the current five years.

The legislation also benefits Vietnam War veterans, adding hypertension to the list of conditions believed to be caused by Agent Orange, a herbicide used by the US military to remove vegetation.

In addition, veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll during the war will also be considered exposed to the chemical.

The legislation is considered the largest expansion of health care for veterans in more than three decades, but it became an unlikely political ballot shortly before it was passed.

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