By Jeff Mason
FORT WORTH (Reuters) -President Joe Biden visited Texas on Tuesday to highlight the exposure of U.S. service members to toxins in war zones that can lead to serious health problems like the cancer that killed his son, which Biden blames on burn pits in Iraq.
In remarks to a group of veterans in Fort Worth, Texas, Biden urged them to come forward to tell officials what they need in terms of treatment and assistance.
“You don’t think you have the right to ask,” he said. “We’re asking you to tell us… what your needs are. Don’t be ashamed. It’s something to be proud of. We owe you.”
Accompanied by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Biden visited a clinic for veterans and received a briefing from staff on services for vets and challenges they face.
In his speech, Biden discussed a proposed rule that would add certain rare cancers to the list of those presumed to be connected to military service. He urged Congress to help veterans facing those difficulties.
Biden, in his State of the Union speech last week, cited his late son, Major Beau Biden, as possibly a victim of burn pits he was exposed to during his service in Iraq. Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.
The U.S. military used burn pits near bases during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to dispose of various types of trash and military waste, using jet fuel to ignite them and spewing toxic smoke and fumes often unavoidable by the troops.
The latest proposal is not the only effort inspired by Beau’s illness. In February, Biden announced plans to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years, part of an effort to revive the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to speed research and make more treatments available.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Bill Berkrot)