Referring to a nation’s ‘sacred obligation,’ Biden touts PACT Act in Salt Lake City
Aug 10, 2023, 1:12 PM | Updated: 3:43 pm
(Kira Hoffelmeyer, KSL NewsRadio)
SALT LAKE CITY — Standing before a banner reading, “Supporting Our Veterans, PACT Act,” President Joe Biden touted the expanded Act on his visit to Salt Lake City on Thursday afternoon, equating the care of veterans to America’s “sacred obligation.”
The PACT Act is a year-old law that extends veteran health benefits to those who are exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. The Act also covers certain surviving family members.
Speaking at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Mr. Biden described his 30-year push for a law like the PACT Act and described the nature of burn pits he said he had seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They’re the size of football fields, up to 100 yards long, 20-yards to 30-yards wide and 8- to 10-feet deep,” he said. “Everything you can imagine is thrown into these pits, to incinerate the waste of war — tires, poisonous chemicals, jet fuel and so much more.
Toxic smoke, thick with poison, spread through the air and into the lungs of those nearby who lived near these facilities. You can smell it in the air. You can sometimes see it.”
“And when these troops came home, many of them the fittest and best-trained warriors we ever sent anywhere, were exposed to these burn pits, they weren’t the same.”
Before the president spoke, veteran Sgt. Erica Smith described her cancer diagnosis and how the PACT Act helped after her kidney was removed.
“A friend from deployment let me know he had cancer in his kidney as well. I filed a claim with the V.A. immediately, thankfully, the PACT Act reduced my paperwork burden and it covered my illness,” she said.
“By the time I had my kidney removed in Oct. 2022, I had already begun receiving increased benefits, benefits that helped me buy my first house.”
“You and your fellow veterans are the heart, soul and very sinew of this generation. Only 1% of you volunteer to protect all of us, that’s what it is,” the president later said of Smith.
Utah governor addresses opportunity to welcome President Biden
Before Mr. Biden spoke, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox welcomed him and paid tribute to Utah’s thousands of military veterans.
“On behalf of the 3.3 million Utahns in our great state, we welcome President Biden to the Beehive State,” he said. “We appreciate this amazing opportunity that we have to collaborate, to push back on policies on which we disagree and to find common ground.”
Mr. Cox addressed comments shared on social media that questioned whether he would welcome a president from the “other” political side.
“It’s insane that we are having those conversations in our country today. I so appreciate my blue-state partners. We welcome President Biden here. We honor the office of the president and want to find ways to work together.
Earl Wednesday morning, before the president arrived, the FBI shot and killed a man in Provo who, according to a criminal complaint, had made interstate threats against federal law enforcement as well as against Mr. Biden and other Democratic politicians and leaders.
This is President Biden’s first trip to Utah as president. He will leave Thursday night after a fundraiser in Park City.
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