PACT bill: President Joe Biden signs bill to assist veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

WASHINGTON– President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation Wednesday morning to assist veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling the PACT Act “the most significant piece of legislation our nation has ever passed” to help veterans.

“Today, we are one step closer to fulfilling that sacred obligation with the law that I am about to sign,” Biden said. “This is the most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service.”

The issue is personal to the president, who previously suspected his son Beau’s brain tumor was linked to cremation pits while he was serving in Iraq.

“Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not only face dangers in combat, they breathe toxic smoke from fire pits,” he said. “By the time they got home, many of the fittest, best warriors we sent to war weren’t the same. Headache, deafness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.”

Beau’s son Hunter was present for the signing, and the President singled him out as he spoke directly to 9-year-old Brielle Robinson, whose father died of lung cancer believed to have been caused by pit burns.

“See that little guy sitting right next to you, that’s my grandson, his daddy lost to the same burn pits,” he said. “And he knows what you’re going through, but you know what? you will do this You’re going to be really, really strong, and it’s hard taking care of Mom and Grandma, but you have to do it.”

Biden called the nation’s veterans the “backbone,” “steel,” and “the fiber that makes this country what it is.”

“The PACT Act is the least we can do for the countless men and women, many of whom I understand may be in this room, who have been exposed to toxic exposure in the service of their country,” he said. “The law expands access to health care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by toxic exposure. It authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to act quickly to determine the illness of service members and related military service to see if they qualify for him and families of veterans who died from toxic exposure.”

It’s another bipartisan victory for the President, and he noted the effort it took Democrats and Republicans to come together to get this bill passed.

“This law is long overdue, but we finally got it done together,” he said. “Together. I don’t want to hear the press tell me Democrats and Republicans can’t work together. We made it, and we made it together.”

Biden also specifically thanked Jon Stewart for his tireless advocacy on the issue.

“What you did is important,” he told him as Stewart received a standing ovation. “It’s really very important and we owe you a lot.”

And after signing the bill and handing the pen to Robinson as her mother wiped away tears, Biden walked off the stage and went straight to his grandson, Beau’s son Hunter, and hugged him.

“I wanted to get this done, hell or high tide,” Biden said.

He added that as a nation we have “only one truly sacred duty: to equip those we put at risk and to look after them and their families when they come home.”

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. PACT bill: President Joe Biden signs bill to assist veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

Dais Johnston

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