Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits
Former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is lobbying Congress on behalf of veterans whose health has been harmed by exposure to burn pits, hoping for similar success to his efforts on behalf of 9/11 first responders.
“The parallels are incredible. I’d say the only difference between what happened with the 9/11 community and what’s happening with the veteran community is the 9/11 community was injured by toxic exposure from an enemy attack,” Stewart told Fox News.
In contrast, he said “the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been injured by the United States.”
“We did this to ourselves. The smoke, the toxins, those pits were dug by contractors hired by the [Department of Defense]. They knew about it,” he said.
“Their own reporting, internal reporting, shows the air quality, shows the variety of toxins” involved in the pits, he added.
Stewart will join fellow advocates on Capitol Hill Tuesday in lobbying for legislation that would treat exposure to burn pits as a presumptive condition for any veteran of either war.
He appeared at a a joint news conference Tuesday with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), the legislation’s sponsors. Gillibrand compared burn pit-related health problems to those of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and cited the action Congress took in 1991 to establish presumptive coverage for veterans of that war.
“We have to do the same for the veterans of the war on terror,” she said. “To put it simply, the bill says that if you were there you are covered. Plain and simple. This bill applies common sense and common decency to a very broken process.”
The bill would cover several medical conditions associated with exposure, including all cancers, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
At the news conference, Stewart also invoked his fight to help 9/11 first responders access a compensation fund.
“When it was done, we thought it was done. But it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack on 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffer from, and they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress that they received,” Stewart said. “And so the fight starts again.”