(NewsNation Now) — One of the most memorable moments from President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address were words he didn’t say, and some argue they upstaged the issue he was trying to discuss: veterans’ health.
“I appreciate you bringing attention to the fact that it has sadly been overshadowed,” Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said during a Wednesday appearance on “Dan Abrams Live.”
Butler said his organization is trying to get a bill through Congress to make it easier for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits to get money for their health care. Biden was beginning to explain how his son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer that was likely caused by breathing in dangerous chemicals created when military equipment is burned. In Afghanistan and Iraq, virtually everything discarded on a military base was burned — from food to weapons.
“A cancer that put them in a flag-draped coffin,” Biden started to say when Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) yelled, “You put them in. Thirteen of them!” Her comment was in reference to the 13 American soldiers who died when Kabul’s airport was attacked in August.
The comment drew boos from Democrats, but nonetheless created headlines and sparked debate about decorum in politics. Butler wants the attention on the bill the House could pass as soon as Thursday.
“What we’re asking for is the government to acknowledge that they caused this and to give health care and benefits to service members who came home with a wound,” Butler said.
The friction between veterans and the government comes in the ambiguity of the myriad diagnoses exposure to a burn pit could lead to. Numerous cancers and conditions are possible, and it may take years for them to manifest. As a result, proving a direct link between service and sickness can be difficult.
“What we’re trying to get Congress to do is say, ‘Don’t worry about that. If you came down with one of these illnesses that we know are caused by exposure to these types of chemicals, and you served in one of these countries where burn pits were used frequently, then we’re going to assume that the reason you came down with that is because of your service, and we’re going to give you health care and benefits for it,'” Butler said.