President Joe Biden on Tuesday said U.S. veterans were the “backbone and spine and the sinew” of the country, and he called for more assistance for those in the military with health issues and exposure to pits of burning.
The president’s subject is very personal for the president. In his last State of the Union address, Biden raised the prospect of whether living near toxic chemicals in the pits where military waste was burned during the war in Iraq caused Beau’s death.
“We aren’t sure whether a pit in the sand caused his brain cancer or the conditions that affect the majority of our troops,” Biden said in the speech. “But I’m determined to find out all that we possibly can.”
Biden was together with Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough to Texas to visit the VA Clinic located in Fort Worth. He visited with veterans, including the one that was stationed in the pit and was later treated for the treatment for six weeks and received chemotherapy.
In the event, the President was joined by more than 150 attendees, including local elected officials, the community’s leaders. Republican Rep. Jake Ellzey and Democratic Rep. Colin Allred.
“There is a price that must be paid for each conflict we’re involved in,” said Ellzey, noting that the country has the obligation of taking care of veterans as well as the families that those who were killed in combat leave behind.
Biden asked veterans to seek help whenever they require help, noting that 17 veterans commit suicide every day, and more than those who die in the field of battle.
Biden said that there must be increased access to health care as well as benefits to veterans who have been affected from exposure to toxic chemicals, toxic substances along with other environmental dangers, such as the ones from burn pits, areas of land that were used by the military to destroyed batteries, tires medical waste, and other items. Biden stated that his U.S. government made terrible errors throughout its involvement in the Vietnam War when troops returning to their homes suffered from physical and mental health signs which took years to identify with Agent Orange.
He is determined to not make the same mistakes as those who returned from conflicts that raged in Iraq and Afghanistan
“We do not know enough about the link to burning pits” and the ailments suffered by veterans, Biden said, adding that he would seek out more and increase the amount of money to study the relationship.
“We’re following the scientific method,” he said, however, he advised veterans to sign up to an account on the VA Burn pit register and to be aware of the benefits they can avail.
Fort Worth City Council member Elizabeth Beck, deployed as a sergeant in Taji, Iraq, said she coughed daily expelling black matter and believed it was coming from the burning pit, which smoldered each day. It took 17 years for her to apply for assistance because she could not endure the bureaucratic red tape.
“We do not want to ask for something we don’t have,” she said of her fellow veterans. “We aren’t asking for anything that we shouldn’t get. We’re just wanting to avoid having to fight in the future.”
Biden has also urged Congress to pass an act to protect veterans suffering health issues following exposure to burn pits. He promised to be able to sign it as soon as possible. The House this week approved an act that would offer VA health insurance for millions of Iraq as well as Afghanistan veterans who fulfill the requirement.
Biden’s child Beau was a member of the Delaware Army National Guard unit which was deployed into Iraq during 2008. Biden, who served for two terms as the Delaware attorney general, had been diagnosed with cancer of the brain in 2013 and passed away two years later, aged 46.
It can be difficult to connect the toxic exposure of a person to their medical illness. The amount of toxic substance is usually well below the amounts required to cause immediate poisoning. Yet, the VA’s hazardous materials exposure website, together with doctors and scientists, advises that military personnel have risks and dangers when exposed to contaminants. It’s risky like gambling in a casino.