Washington [US], August 11 (ANI): US President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law a bill which expands the medical benefits for the veterans who were exposed to toxins from burning pits of trash on military bases, a step to support veterans and their families.
Taking to Twitter, Biden said that the PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) Act is the most significant law in the nation's history to help millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.
In a series of tweets, Biden said, "As a nation, our truly sacred obligation is to equip those we send into harm's way and care for them and their families when they come home. Moments ago, I signed the PACT Act into law, and we took one step closer to fulfilling that sacred obligation."
"Today is long overdue, but we got it done together. The Heath Robinson PACT Act is the law of the land. And for veterans and military families, today represents hope that our vets get better care - faster - when they return home," he said in a tweet.
This law is deeply personal for the President, who has long speculated that his son Beau Biden has developed brain cancer from exposure to burn pits in Iraq while serving as a member of the Delaware National Guard. Before signing the legislation, Biden described the lingering effects of the exposures, The New York Times reported.
"Toxic smoke, thick with poisons, spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops," he said adding "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."
In a ceremony packed with veterans and their families in the East Room of the White House, President Biden called the new law progress toward fulfilling "a sacred obligation" to those who defended the nation and their families.
The law passed despite a last-minute delay by Republican Senators, who blocked its passage but backed down after an intense backlash, reported The New York Times.
"This is the most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans who are exposed to toxic substances during their military services," Biden said, adding a few minutes later: "This law is long overdue. We finally got it done, together."
Prior to the signing of the PACT Act, the White House said that President Biden believes that the nation has a sacred obligation to properly prepare and equip the troops that were sent into harm's way - and to care for them and their families when they return home.
"Sometimes military service can result in increased health risks for our veterans, and some injuries and illnesses like asthma, cancer, and others can take years to manifest. These realities can make it difficult for veterans to establish a direct connection between their service and disabilities resulting from military environmental exposures such as burn pits - a necessary step to ensure they receive the health care they earned," the statement added.
The act is named in honour of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer.
"I'm in awe of Danielle Robinson and her family's courage. Through their pain of losing husband, father, and son Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson to toxic exposure, they found purpose to demand that we do better by our vets. Today, with the signing of the PACT Act, we are," Biden said in a tweet.
This historic legislation will help deliver more timely benefits and services to more than 5 million veterans, across all generations, who may have been impacted by toxic exposures while serving the country.
The PACT Act will ensure veterans that they can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures. The PACT Act expands access to VA (Veterans Affairs) health care services for veterans exposed during their military service.
"For post-9/11 combat veterans, the bill extends the period of time they have to enrol in VA health care from five to ten years post-discharge. For those combat veterans who do not fall within that window, the bill also creates a one-year open enrollment period. These expansions mean that more veterans can enrol in VA health care without having to demonstrate a service-connected disability," the statement reads.
This bill also delivers critical resources to VA to ensure it can deliver timely access to services and benefits for all veterans eligible - including those already enrolled.
"The PACT Act provides VA with mechanisms to enhance claims processing and to increase the workforce. The bill also invests in VA health care facilities by authorizing 31 major medical health clinics and research facilities in 19 states," the statement noted. (ANI)