President Joe Biden and Sen. Jon Tester this week said the Department of Veteran’s Affairs plans to expand claims for disability benefits to certain veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers stemming from exposure to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Biden, during his Tuesday night State of the Union address, offered remarks on the COST of War Act spearheaded by Tester and other members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee relating to toxic exposure and its health impacts on exposed veterans.
“These burn pits incinerate the waste of war – medical and hazardous material, jet fuel and so much more,” Biden said. “We’re expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers.”
Tester this week said the VA will add a presumptive service connection for certain veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers including squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx, squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea, and large cell carcinoma of the lung, among five others.
The rule change follows an expansion of presumptions made last year by the Biden administration, Tester said.
“Today’s announcement is a huge victory for veterans living with conditions related to their military toxic exposures, who have been denied their due care and benefits for far too long,” Tester said in a statement. “This action assists Congress’ ongoing efforts to provide health care and benefits to more veterans, and brings us one step closer to delivering all generations of toxic-exposed veterans the relief they deserve.”
In early February during the ribbon cutting on the VA’s new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Missoula, Tester said he would also push to get the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act passed.
That measure cleared the Senate last month and represents the first step in a three-step effort to expand health care access for toxic-exposed veterans. Biden also is watching the measure and called on Congress to get it passed during his State of the Union address.
“I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to protect those we send to war and care for them and their family when they come home,” Biden said. “I’m also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve.”