Taking the fight to Washington

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TV show host Jon Stewart (third from left) and veterans service organization leaders, including DAV Deputy National Legislative Director Shane Liermann (second from right), met with U.S. senators on Nov. 4 to push comprehensive toxic exposure legislation.

Comedian Jon Stewart stood alongside DAV to push for expanded health care, benefits for veterans affected by toxic exposure

Comedian and TV show host Jon Stewart is standing alongside DAV and other veterans advocates in the fight to improve access to health care and benefits for those exposed to burn pits during military service.

Stewart joined a coalition of service groups in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4 to demand that Congress pass comprehensive legislation expanding lifelong health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans of all generations who were exposed to toxic substances.

In the Senate, the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021 (S. 3003) addresses numerous types of exposure, including toxins at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base, burn pits, Agent Orange and radiation. The DAV-backed legislation also calls for a working group and review commission on presumptive diseases related to toxic exposure. There’s a similar legislative package that was introduced in the House—the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3967).

“I mean, if we can’t do this, what chance do the rest of us have?” Stewart said during a press conference. “If we can’t correct even the most basic of injustices to those who’ve served us, then I believe the phrase would be ‘yikes.’”

Stewart and DAV Deputy National Legislative Director Shane Liermann, along with leaders from organizations such as Burn Pits 360 and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, met with senators in Washington to continue the push to take care of veterans exposed to toxins.

“There’s an opportunity now,” Liermann said. “We just need action, because Vietnam veterans are still waiting 50, 60 years for additional benefits. We don’t need the current generation to wait that time either.

“We need action and we need it now,” Liermann added.

In 2008, DAV leaders and members were the first to raise the issue of burn pits through the media, and DAV has continued with legislative efforts ever since. DAV initiated a pilot for the Burn Pit Registry, which became law in 2014.

Stewart dedicated the first episode of his new Apple TV+ series, “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” to the issue of burn pit exposure. He’s also a longtime and fierce advocate for 9/11 first responders, many of whom developed serious illnesses in the years after the rescue and recovery operations in the smoldering rubble and plumes of smoke at Ground Zero.

Visit DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) to learn more about and support current burn pit legislation: davcan.org.