President Biden on Tuesday signed legislation to provide better access to mammograms for veterans exposed to burn pits as part of nine bills signed into law aimed at improving veterans’ health care.
The measure aims to ensure that veterans who serve near burn pits get preventative care and requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct breast cancer screenings for women who served near toxic exposures.
The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act was named after Marine Corps Officer Kate Thomas, 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 the chemicals from burn pits may have contributed to the brain cancer that ultimately killed his son Beau Biden.
He signed eight other pieces of legislation focused on veteran health care, including a bill to improve breast imaging services for veterans regardless of if they’re exposed to burn pits or not and to compensate veterans who developed cancer and medical conditions from 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. “And that’s what today is all about, is paying a debt in my view,” Biden said at the bill signing.
He called it a “sacred obligation” to care for those who serve in the armed forces and when they return home.
Lawmakers who attended the bill signing included Republican Sens. John Boozman (Ark.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Joni Ernst (Iowa), and Democratic Sens. John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
Source: The Hill