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Jon Stewart urges Kansas and Missouri senators to back toxic exposure bill

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Burn Pit Iraq
SSG David Fischer, SDARNG
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National Archives
Two firefighters take a short break during a mop-up operation in a burn pit on Forward Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Veterans were exposed to toxic air from burn pits overseas and comedian Jon Stewart and the Veterans of Foreign Wars say Congress needs to approve funds to treat them.

Comedian and veterans advocate Jon Stewart is pressuring U.S. senators from Kansas and Missouri to pass the PACT Act, a comprehensive bill that would provide health care and VA disability benefits to veterans exposed to toxins during war.

The toxic air has been linked to cancer and respiratory illnesses, some of which are not discovered until years after service. President Biden recently included nine rare cancers to the list of presumptive service-connected disabilities.

"This isn't a new issue," Jon Stewart said. "We just keep playing the same old song, and not learning from it."

If passed, the PACT Act would allow veterans who served in the Southwest Asian theater of operation or parts of Africa to file for service-connected disability. This is regardless of whether they develop a cancer or respiratory illness during or after their service according to Kristina Keenan, associate director of national legislative service for the VFW.

The bill passed the House and is expected to receive a vote on the Senate floor near Memorial Day, according to Stewart.

"I think a lot of Republican senators . . . are deferring to Senator Moran, because of his position on the Veterans Affairs Committee," Stewart said.

In a statement to Up To Date, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said, "Sen. Tester and I recently passed the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act and are working together to amend the PACT Act . . . the PACT Act needs work before being brought to the full Senate for a vote."

Stewart believes that addressing these injuries is part of the literal cost of war. For senators who are concerned with making the promise to help these veterans and then not being able to keep it Stewart said this, "The truth of it is, every day that this act isn't passed is a promise broken."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
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