Jul 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House passes bill to expand care for veterans exposed to burn pits

Comedian and activist Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill last year. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Wednesday to expand health care access for veterans who became ill after being exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in the military.

Driving the news: The bill, which passed 342 votes to 88, would make it easier for more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to obtain health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, per a statement from House Veterans' Affairs Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

The big picture: Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this century.

  • President Biden advocated for the legislation in his State of the Union speech earlier this year and has said he believes that toxic exposure from burn pits contributed to the brain cancer that killed his son Beau Biden.

What they're saying: Takano in his statement paid tribute to activists, including comedian Jon Stewart, and veterans exposed to burn pits who have for years campaigned for the expansion.

  • "Today's action would not have been possible if it were not for the tireless advocacy and selflessness of toxic-exposed veterans who shared their stories and advocated for a comprehensive bill like this," Takano said.
"Tragically, many of these voices ... are no longer with us. They devoted what remained of their lives to their fellow veterans, they shared their deeply personal stories showing the world the true consequences of toxic exposure. We are grateful for their stories and indebted to them for their service and advocacy."
— Excerpt from House Veterans' Affairs Chair Mark Takano's statement

Meanwhile, Stewart reacted to the bill's passage on Twitter with a one-word statement: "Excellent."

What's next: The bill heads to the Senate next, where it is expected to easily pass.

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