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Biden signs burn pit legislation expanding veterans benefits

Biden Veterans
Evan Vucci
/
AP
Danielle Robinson, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson, who died of cancer two years ago, speaks as her daughter Brielle Robinson and President Joe Biden listen during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Washington. During the event Biden signed veterans health care legislation that ends a long battle to expand benefits for people who served near burn pits.

The legislation will help veterans get disability payments without having to prove their illness was the result of their service. Other health care services will be expanded as well.

President Joe Biden signed the veterans health care bill on Wednesday that ends a long battle to expand benefits for people who served near burn pits.

It's a personal issue for Biden. His son Beau was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, and he died of cancer after his service in Iraq.

“Toxic smoke, thick with poison spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops. When they came home many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them,” Biden said.

The legislation will help veterans get disability payments without having to prove their illness was the result of their service. Other health care services will be expanded as well.

"This new law matters. It matters a lot," Biden said.

Burn pits were used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of chemicals, cans, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste.

After signing the bill, Biden handed his pen to Brielle Robinson, the daughter of a veteran who died from toxic burn pit exposure. Her mother, Danielle, who introduced the president, pushed for the legislation after her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson died of lung cancer. Both were guests of first lady Jill Biden at this year's State of the Union address.

The bipartisan bill is known as the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT Act .

Biden also thanked entertainer Jon Stewart for his work in supporting veterans who were victims of burn pit illnesses. "We owe you big," Biden told Stewart, who attended the signing ceremony.

Click here to read more of this article from the Associated Press.