WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A well-known comedian who has been a long-time advocate for veterans teamed up with lawmakers on Tuesday to call for better access to care for those exposed to toxic burn pits.
“It’s heartbreaking and we haven’t had any change,” Jon Stewart said Tuesday.
Stewart was once again on Capitol Hill taking on a new fight for veterans.
“I didn’t even know it was going on and it shouldn’t be going on,” Stewart said.
Just last year, Stewart and 9/11 first responder John Feal fought for compensation for first responders injured at Ground Zero.
“You know Kellie, last July I could have left D.C. and never come back. But I’m a veteran before I’m a 9/11 responder,” Feal told Washington Correspondent Kellie Meyer.
Now they’re pushing for benefits for veterans getting sick from toxic burn pits used to burn garbage or medical waste.
“My son-in-law was exposed to burn pits and he passed away on May 6 of this year,” said Susan Zeier.
Zeier lost her son-in-law to a rare form of lung cancer. She said the Department of Defense knew of the danger of burn pits when her son-in-law was sent to serve in 2006.
“They would tell me ‘it’s OK, you might cough a little bit, it’s alright, you’ll be alright,’ and it wasn’t alright,” she added.
Lawmakers introduced new legislation aimed at helping veterans with diseases linked to burn pits get benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is sponsoring the bill.
“Our veterans deserve to be covered for all service-related injuries and they should be covered for the rest of their lives,” Gillibrand said.
Christina Noel, the press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs told Nexstar D.C. correspondent Kellie Meyer that “eligibility requirements for VA health care and disability compensation are set by Congress.”
But those in Washington Tuesday said they won’t stop fighting until there is a change.
“This is a marathon, this is not a sprint. And we’re prepared for a long, drawn-out battle,” Feal added.