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Biden signs bill to support veterans exposed to toxins

#Biden #signs #bill #support #veterans #exposed #toxins

US President Joe Biden signed legislation on Wednesday increasing benefits for veterans exposed to toxic fumes, a cause close to his heart after his son died of brain cancer.

Burning pits lit with jet fuel were widely used to dispose of waste in military camps during the years of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They exposed large numbers of soldiers to potentially harmful toxins, although there is not always a proven link between exposure and subsequent illness.

The PACT bill, passed by the US Senate earlier this month after heavy lobbying from veterans and famed comedian Jon Stewart, will formalize new rules for ensuring access to medical treatment.

“Sometimes military service can result in increased health risks for our veterans, and some injuries and illnesses, such as asthma, cancer, and others, can take years to manifest,” the White House said.

“These realities can make it difficult for veterans to make a direct link between their service and disabilities caused by military environmental exposures such as burn pits — a necessary step to ensure they receive the health care they deserve.”

It described the bill as the “most significant expansion in benefits and services for toxic-exposed veterans in more than 30 years.”

Biden believes the pits are the root of the brain tumor that claimed the life of his son Beau, who served in Iraq and died in 2015 at the age of 46.

Biden recounted his own many visits to US troops in Iraq as a senator and vice president, and described how he saw “football field-sized cremation pits” filled with “burned waste of war.”

Many of the “fittest and best warriors we sent to war” were exposed to “toxic smoke” and came home “not the same”, encountering symptoms ranging from headaches and numbness to serious illnesses, said Biden.

“My son Beau was one of them.”

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