“An IED that goes off in your body”
John Lamparski/WireImage Jon Stewart
In moving testimony delivered Wednesday before a House Veterans Affairs Committee roundtable, Jon Stewart urged lawmakers to help veterans battling illnesses after being exposed to toxic burning stoves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Burn pits – which have historically been used by the US military to burn everything from garbage to human waste for decades – have exposed millions of service members to toxic fumes.
Members of Congress estimated that some 3.5 million veterans deployed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have been exposed, ABC News reported last year — exposure that some studies have found may have contributed to aggressive and terminal cancers.
A 2021 VA-funded research proposal, for example, found that “the incidence rate of breast cancer among active-duty women is seven times higher than the average incidence rate of fifteen other cancer types. for all service members.
Yet veterans who have submitted applications to the Department of Veterans Affairs have met with resistance and, in some cases, their applications have been denied entirely.
Although the Biden administration recently announced a policy that would make it easier for vets to receive benefits after being exposed to toxic burning stoves, it could still take months or years to see those benefits – leading activists like Stewart to call on Congress to take further action.
“There really should be one job here and one job, and that is: how to put in place top-notch health care against toxic exposure for our veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the 58-year-old comedian and filmmaker before the committee on Wednesday, adding that the VA has established top-notch facilities and programs for people with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, but it “took a lot intention and money” to obtain these services.
Stewart continued, “And we have to establish that for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, because the [toxins are] an IED that triggers in your body five years later, 10 years later, 15 years later. And yet, the burden of proof and review still rests with the veteran.
He added that funding for the VA’s Burn Pit Center for Excellence is “$6-7 million per year” in 2022.
“Just to give you perspective on this, they’re spending $90 million a year on Viagra,” Stewart said, later adding, “The VA and this organization need to take their blinders off.”
Stewart is a longtime advocate for the thousands of 9/11 responders who developed health problems after being exposed to debris and toxins from the World Trade Center site.
In 2019, he helped reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund bill, after delivering an impassioned speech to Congress. This bill allows 9/11 victims and their families to file claims with the fund until 2090.
Speaking on Wednesday, Stewart said the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund was a model that could be followed for those battling illnesses after exposure to toxic burning stoves “if the will was there”. .
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C-staff Jon Stewart
After more than six years of absence from television, the comedian made his return to the small screen in the fall, when The problem with Jon Stewart premiering on Apple TV+ in September.
The series – which has already been picked up for several seasons – was described in a press release as a “one-issue series, delving into the most important topics that are currently part of the national conversation. … Stewart will be up for discussion. with the people who are impacted by the issue – as well as those helping to create the impact.Together, they will discuss concrete steps that can lead to a solution path forward.
A companion series podcast continues that conversation, with the first episode focusing on veterans seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs after being exposed to toxins during their military service.
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“This delay is killing people,” Stewart said in the podcast. “It’s not hyperbole. It’s about fixing a problem that we caused by our negligence to our own service personnel.”
President Joe Biden’s own son, Beau, served in Iraq before his death in 2015 from brain cancer at the age of 46.
Biden, for his part, said he suspected burning fires may have contributed to Beau’s death.
“Due to his exposure to burn foci, in my opinion — I can’t prove it yet — he came back with stage four glioblastoma,” Biden said in 2019.