Senate passes bill to help war veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits

Comedian Jon Stewart has joined lawmakers at several news conferences to advocate for passage of the bill

Updated: June 16, 2022 - 2:27pm

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The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill to help war veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits, including expanded opportunities to get free medical care.

The bill applies to veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the care is based on the presumption certain illnesses and cancers are linked to their exposure during their military service. 

The legislation passed 84 to 14 with strong bipartisan support and now returns to the House, where the bill originated, for a final vote, according to CBS News

President Biden has suggested his late son, Beau, was affected by his exposure to burn pits while in military service.

Biden died of brain cancer in 2015. The president says he's uncertain about whether a burn pit caused his son's cancer but has vowed to "find out everything we can," CBS also reports. 

Since 2020, comedian Jon Stewart and John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation, have joined lawmakers at several news conferences to advocate for passage of the bill, the Honoring Our PACT Act.

Earlier this year, Stewart lamented about Congress not wanting to pass the bill without first having a way to pay for the additional spending.

"Why did we not have a 'pay for' when we went to war?" Stewart asked. "There's nothing fiscally irresponsible in the PACT Act."

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called Thursday a "day of reckoning and Congress did what's right."

Feal said Stewart deserves the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" for his advocacy on behalf of war veterans and the burn pits bill.

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