President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill to provide better access to mammograms for veterans exposed to burn pits as part of nine bills signed into law aimed to improve veterans’ health care.
He also signed eight other pieces of legislation Tuesday focused on veteran health care, including a bill to improve breast imaging services for veterans regardless of if they’re exposed to burn pits or not and to compensate veterans who developed cancer and medical conditions from the World War II-era nuclear programs.
“Less than one per cent of the population risk everything to defend our nation and our values and everything we hold dear. And you know, the 99 per cent of us who don’t, we owe them, we owe them big,” Biden said at the bill signing. “And that’s what today is all about, is paying a debt in my view,” he said adding.
Biden has been focused on expanding benefits for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits and has always called it a “sacred obligation” to prepare those serving in the armed forces and to care for them and their families when they return home.
The issue of burn pits strikes a personal note for the president who believes related chemicals may have contributed to the brain cancer that ultimately killed his son, Beau Biden.
Biden said one of the bills — the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 — will make sure the veterans affected by the burn pits where military waste was incinerated in Iraq receive the health care they need.
Biden also praised his Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough, for his efforts to fulfill the “sacred obligation” of caring for veterans.
Before the ceremony, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it has taken decades to understand the dangerous effects of harmful environmental exposures. Unable to make the connection, veterans couldn’t access benefits.
“Veterans and advocates across the country have spoken out about the importance of this legislation, which represents one of the most significant and substantive expansions of benefits and services in the Department of Veterans Affairs history,” Jean-Pierre said.