Jon Stewart returns to Washington to help veterans with burn pit illnesses: ‘The fight starts again’


Jon Stewart is back in Washington, D.C., and this time he’s fighting for veterans.

The former Daily Show host joined lawmakers Tuesday to draw attention to a bill that will help veterans affected by toxic burn pits, which were a common way to eliminate waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Welcome to another exciting episode of ‘When is America going to start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?’” Stewart said outside the Capitol building.

He continued, “You remember we were here a year ago after a 15-year battle to get Congress to recognize that the first responders on 9/11 were sick and dying and needed health care and disability… They came down to Washington over and over and over again, sick and dying, walking the halls of Congress just to get to them recognize the basic humanity of what they were dealing with: That their selflessness and heroism had put them in harm’s way and they had been sick.”

Stewart said that he thought “it was done” when the bill was passed to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and take care of those sickened by exposure to toxic material at Ground Zero. “But it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle, based on the attack of 9/11, now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from — and they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress… And so the fight starts again.”

Stewart said the only difference between the two groups is that the first responders on 9/11 were made ill as a result of a “terrorist attack on our country” while the vets were exposed due to the “actions of our own government” from the burn pits, which were as large as 10 acres and burned “every hazardous waste,” including “jet fuel,” 24/7, Stewart said.

Jon Stewart speaks at a press conference on “The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2020” at the House Triangle on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Stewart said that they’re aware that everyone has a lot on their plate right now, but he hopes people will rally around those affected who “deserve to be treated” by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which denies that the long-term health problems the vets have are as a result of exposure to burn pits.

In a subsequent interview with NBC, Stewart reiterated his case, explaining, “Everybody thinks that veterans get health care for life, but they don’t. They only get health care if their injury or illness can be tied to their service,” which the VA declines to do, noting on its website that, “Most of the irritation” from burn pits “is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone” despite acknowledging the pits were filled with “chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions,” among other things.

Stewart appeared at the news conference with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), the legislation’s sponsors. The bill, if passed, will cover several medical conditions associated with exposure, including all cancers, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Stewart has long been a 9/11 activist, appearing last year in Washington to help reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He also slammed lawmakers for not attending the hearing at which victims were speaking. When it was passed a month later, Stewart called it “the honor of my life.”

Stewart was in the news more recently while promoting his political dramedy Irresistible, weighing in on the Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd.

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