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Biden Plans to Expand Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits

Credit: Unsplash

During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, US Military bases used “burn pits” as trash disposal sites, where various hazardous materials such as vehicles, electronics, and human waste were burned. This haphazard waste disposal method released toxic particles into the air, potentially causing health issues for veterans involved in those wars.

The Biden Administration has recently declared its intention to provide increased assistance to military veterans who were exposed to these harmful substances near burn pits. This assistance includes easing the burden of proving proximity to the burn pits, improving healthcare accessibility, and supporting research efforts to establish stronger links between burn pits and health problems.

President Biden has a personal connection to this issue, as he believes that exposure to burn pit emissions may have led to his son Beau’s cancer diagnosis while he served in Iraq. Biden shared his thoughts during a speech at a Service Employees International Union convention in 2019, stating, “He volunteered to join the National Guard at age 32 because he thought he had an obligation to go. And because of exposure to burn pits, in my view, I can’t prove it yet, he came back with stage 4 glioblastoma.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Denis McDonough, has long advocated for this kind of support. McDonough expressed his view, stating, “I have said I consider it a failing of the United States government, until now, during those 30 years, that it’s only now under President Biden that we’ve even begun to cover [some of those] conditions. The biggest challenge there is proving the scientific connection between those chemicals and that cancer. And I’m duty-bound by the law to have a firm connection there. So that’s the biggest challenge.”

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