President Joe Biden said Tuesday that taking care of veterans was a “sacred obligation” for the United States.
Speaking in Fort Worth, Biden talked of how veterans feel they often don’t have the right to ask for help when they come back from conflict.
“You have the right to ask,” Biden said. “We owe you.”
Fort Worth city council member Elizabeth Beck, who served as an Army reservist in Operation Iraqi Freedom, introduced Biden, at the Resource Connection of Tarrant County.
She described her wait to apply for veterans benefits and called the process a battle in itself. Veterans aren’t asking for any more than they deserve, she said.
“We are simply asking not to have to fight again,” she said.
Biden spoke of veterans’ fight to get treatment for toxic exposure to burn pits. He compared it to Agent Orange for Vietnam vets and dioxins for Sept. 11 first responders.
The country waited too long to get take care of those vets and first responders, Biden argued, and promised not to make the same mistake with his administration.
He pledged greater support for veterans, including expanded health care and recognition of the harm caused by the burn pits.
The military used the pits in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn tires, batteries and medical waste.
Biden suggested during his State of the Union speech on March 1 that the cancer that took son Beau Biden’s life might have been caused by exposure to one of these pits.
Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced that his department will add nine respiratory cancers to its list of diseases that the VA will pay to treat. Previously veterans who got these cancers were not eligible for VA care due to regulations that prevented the agency from paying for treatment.
The change is part of the president’s “Unity Agenda for the Nation,” which he announced during his March 1 state of the union address. It is a set of four bipartisan initiatives Biden hopes will bring the country together.
There are an estimated 1.4 million veterans in Texas and roughly 42,000 in Fort Worth, according to the U.S. census.
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