Biden Announces Effort to ID Toxic Air Issues in Veterans
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, whose son Beau was an Iraq war veteran, is using his first Veterans Day in office to announce an effort to better understand, treat and identify medical conditions suffered by troops deployed to toxic environments.
It centers on lung problems suffered by troops who breathe in toxins and the potential connection between rare respiratory cancers and time spent overseas breathing poor air, according to senior White House officials. Federal officials plan to start by examining lung and breathing problems but said they will expand the effort as science identifies potential new connections.
Biden planned to travel to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Thursday to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony and deliver remarks.
The new federal effort is also designed to make it easier for veterans to make claims based on their symptoms, to collect more data from troops who are suffering and to give veterans more time to make medical claims after symptoms such as asthma and sinus problems develop.
“We’re discovering there is a whole host of lung conditions related to deployment,” said Dr. Richard Meehan, an immunologist and rheumatologist. The retired U.S. Naval Reserve officer, who served in the Mideast during the 1990s and again in 2008, is co-director of the Denver-based National Jewish Hospital Center for Excellence on Deployment-Related Lung Disease.
Biden has hypothesized about a potential link between his son Beau’s death from an aggressive brain cancer after returning from Iraq and his exposure to toxins in the air, particularly around massive pits where the military disposes of waste by burning. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that link.
Beau Biden’s death was a defining moment for Joe Biden, one he said affected his decision to sit out the 2016 presidential race. The younger Biden deployed from October 2008 until September 2009 as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard. In 2013, he was diagnosed with a tumor, and he died two years later at age 46.
Meehan, who is investigating the role of inhalation exposures among military personnel who were deployed to Southwest Asia, said it isn’t only burn pits that are the issue — the air quality in some countries is so poor that troops would not be allowed to work there under civilian federal workplace guidelines. The center receives funding from the Department of Defense, along with private donors.
Meehan has worried that troops who came back with breathing problems were being compared with regular Americans to determine whether there was a higher rate of lung illness. But those deployed with the U.S. military are in peak physical condition and can generally run faster and are stronger and more fit than average Americans. To come back unable to make it up stairs without getting winded or unable to lift anything without breathing heavily is highly unusual.
“When you compare them to another group, you have to compare them to another healthy, fit group,” Meehan said. “That’s one of the problems overlooked in surveys that have shown no higher incidence of cancer.”
The new rules will allow veterans to make claims within 10 years of service, and the government has changed how it determines what symptoms count and why.
The U.S. military has been aware for years of the health risks associated with open-air burn pits. In 2013, federal investigators found a military camp in Afghanistan was operating a pit for more than five years, nearly four times longer than Pentagon rules allowed. The Defense Department has said burn pits should only be used as a temporary last resort when no other alternative trash disposal method is feasible, still they persisted for years.
In The News
In The News
WASHINGTON — Guests attending the first state dinner of the Biden administration will dine on butter poached Maine lobster and... Read More
WASHINGTON — Guests attending the first state dinner of the Biden administration will dine on butter poached Maine lobster and Calotte of beef while being serenaded by New Orleans, Louisiana, native Jon Batiste, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden revealed during a press preview Wednesday afternoon. The... Read More
WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. senators led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they will... Read More
WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. senators led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they will oppose passage of this year’s defense spending authorization unless the chamber votes to repeal the current COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel. In a letter to... Read More
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday to avert a nationwide rail strike, the first step in avoiding an economic... Read More
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday to avert a nationwide rail strike, the first step in avoiding an economic calamity at the height of the holiday shopping season. The chamber passed the main resolution in a 290-137 vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration... Read More
WASHINGTON — Sixty-one years after President John F. Kennedy famously declared during his inaugural address that “the torch has been... Read More
WASHINGTON — Sixty-one years after President John F. Kennedy famously declared during his inaugural address that “the torch has been passed” to a new generation, that process was renewed again on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as House Democrats unanimously elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to lead... Read More
WASHINGTON — A Senate committee tried to tweak the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law Wednesday to make sure the government... Read More
WASHINGTON — A Senate committee tried to tweak the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law Wednesday to make sure the government is getting a good deal with its record investment to boost the economy. The five-year program won wide approval during the Senate Environment and Public Works... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is making $350 million available to increase COVID-19 vaccinations at Health Resources and Services Administration-supported... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is making $350 million available to increase COVID-19 vaccinations at Health Resources and Services Administration-supported health facilities. The funding will support health centers administering updated COVID-19 vaccines through mobile, drive-up, walk-up or community-based vaccination events, including working with community-based organizations and... Read More