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Free medical care for veterans in need in US

Words by Smiley Team

The US involvement in the Middle East was sparked, in a lot of ways, by 9/11. People were shaken up by the attack and, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 77% supported a quick military response in Afghanistan – including deploying ground forces.

On an individual scale, people wanted to make a difference – 181,510 enlisted in the active-duty ranks and 72,908 joined the enlisted reserves, stats show.

Now, over 20 years later, and after the US fully pulled out of Afghanistan, the consequences the soldiers are facing are becoming apparent. One such consequence is the burn pits that an estimated 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans have been exposed to, according to the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

These pits served as waste disposal for many of the military sites where everything from human waste to tires were burned. The result was toxic chemicals released into the air may be linked to diseases like cancer and other lung diseases. 

In response, the Senate has passed the PACT Act – also known as the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act – to extend free healthcare to those exposed to the pits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

“Our veterans have waited long enough for their healthcare benefits to treat complications from toxic exposure,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in front of the Senate floor. “Burn pits were a common method of eliminating all sorts of waste throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans have developed terrible diseases because of their exposure to the toxic waste.”

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President Joe Biden is a firm supporter of the act and has highlighted that he believes exposure to the pits contributed to the death of his son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“We need to talk about burn pits that incinerate wastes of war tires, poisonous chemicals, jet fuels and so much more,” Biden said during a bill signing ceremony.

“Toxic smoke with thick poison, spreading through our bases and into the lungs of our troops. And when they came home, many of the fittest and best-trained warriors we’ve ever had were not the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness. Cancer. My son Beau was one of them.”

Not only will this bill expand health coverage for veterans who served post-9/11, but the bill would also extend coverage to health issues caused by Agent Orange, a toxic deforestation chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. 

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: Lifeline for Vets supports the healthcare of veterans who may otherwise not have access to it.

SUPPORT: Many veterans receive insufficient care, and require social safety nets. Consider volunteering with local soup kitchens and shelters to supplement that.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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