President Biden on Tuesday signed a bill to provide better access to mammograms for veterans exposed to burn pits as part of nine bills signed into law aimed to improve veterans’ health care.
The legislation aims to ensure that veterans who serve near burn pits get preventative care and requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct breast cancer screenings for women who experience toxic exposures.
The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act was named after a Marine Corps officer who served near a burn pit in Iraq and died in April from breast cancer. Biden honored her in remarks at the White House and acknowledged her husband and son, who were at the bill signing.
Biden has been focused on expanding benefits for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits. The issue of burn pits strikes a personal note for the president, who believes related chemicals may have contributed to the brain cancer that ultimately killed his son Beau Biden.
He signed eight other pieces of legislation Tuesday focused on veterans’ health care, including a bill to improve breast imaging services for veterans regardless of whether they’re exposed to burn pits and to compensate veterans who developed cancer and medical conditions from the World War II-era nuclear programs.
“Less than 1 percent of the population risk everything to defend our nation and our values and everything we hold dear. And, you know, the 99 percent of us who don’t, we owe them. We owe them big,” Biden said at the bill signing. “And that’s what today is all about, is paying a debt, in my view.”
He called it a “sacred obligation” to prepare those who serve in the armed forces and to care for them and their families when they return home.
Lawmakers who attended the bill signing included Republican Sens. John Boozman (Ark.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) as well as and Democratic Sens. John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
“I need glasses. When I look out, the only thing I see is Joe Manchin,” Biden quipped, acknowledging the lawmakers in the audience.
Source: The Hill