America’s veterans are the best of us. I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to equip all those we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they come home. That’s especially true for veterans suffering the visible and invisible wounds of war, whether they were injured in combat or breathed in toxic smoke from burn pits on base. We can and must do more to address the harms that come from hazardous exposures, which have gone unaddressed for far too long.
We learned a horrible lesson after Vietnam, when the harmful effects of exposure to Agent Orange sometimes took years to manifest, and too many veterans were left unable to access the care they needed. I refuse to repeat that mistake when it comes to the veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In my State of the Union address, I announced that we would propose expanding disability and health benefits to veterans suffering from nine rare respiratory cancers. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is delivering on that promise and upholding that sacred obligation to the women and men who have worn the uniform of our country. This new action is guided by science and driven by a desire to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive timely access to the benefits and services they deserve.
Supporting our veterans is a critical part of the Unity Agenda I proposed for our nation. No matter where we live or who we voted for in the last election, we all agree that we should serve our veterans as well as they have served us. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to support our nation’s veterans, and I urge Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to comprehensively address toxic exposures and further deliver the vital benefits our veterans have earned. I will sign it immediately.