Biden signs 'burn pits' help for vets, a personal win, too

President Joe Biden gives the pen he used to sign the "PACT Act of 2022" to Brielle Robinson, daughter of Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson, who died of cancer two years ago, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Joe Biden, whose elder son Beau died of cancer years after deploying to Iraq, signed legislation on Wednesday expanding federal health care services for millions of veterans who served at military bases where toxic smoke billowed from huge "burn pits."

"We owe you," Biden said. "You're the backbone. You're the steel. You're the sinew. You're the very fiber that makes this country what it is."

The law, which Biden described as long overdue, caps a years-long battle to ensure treatment for chronic illnesses that veterans have blamed on burn pits, which were used to dispose of chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste on military bases. Estimates of affected troops run to 3 million or more.

"So many of you here today remind us that we have fought for this for so many years," he said during an emotional White House ceremony that reflected the struggles of military families - and the president's personal experience.

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