Burn pit injuries will be focus of Biden’s trip to Texas this week

Maj. Afton Brown, Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment 1, assists a young aviator during the Girls in Aviation Day at the Women in Aviation International conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., March 7, 2020. (Christa D’Andrea/Air Force)


President Joe Biden will travel to Texas on Tuesday to continue his push for better benefits for veterans suffering from injuries related to toxic burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan.

White House officials said that Biden will speak to a group of “veterans, caregivers, and survivors” at the Fort Worth Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic as an extension of the remarks he made on the topic during last week’s State of the Union address.

The commander-in-chief devoted several minutes of the hour-long speech to the issue of respiratory diseases and rare cancers caused by exposure to the toxic smoke from the combat zone fires, used to dispose of a variety of military surplus and waste.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the focus on helping veterans is part of Biden’s “unity agenda” for the country in coming months.

“The president will discuss the administration’s actions to address these issues, including a new proposed rule to consider adding certain rare cancers to the list of those presumed to be service connected, and he will urge Congress to send him legislation that ensures we honor our commitment to veterans exposed to toxic substances,” she said.

“President Biden believes we have a sacred obligation to care for our veterans and their families.”

The event will feature a tour of the outpatient center with VA Secretary Denis McDonough, including meeting with local primary care and specialty health services staff.

White House officials declined to release further details on the event and whether the president would call for new, specific action from Congress on the issue.

Psaki said Biden was supportive of the sweeping military toxic exposure measure passed by the House last week — dubbed the PACT Act — but did not offer further comment on whether the White House would back that legislation over other alternatives being debated on Capitol Hill.

VA officials declined to comment on the trip except to applaud Biden’s decision to “meet with our nation’s veterans and hardworking VA front-line workers and employees.”

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.