President Joe Biden called on Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to do more to address health issues caused by military burn pit exposure. He also spoke on his proposed overhaul of nursing home regulations, in the wake of dangerous pandemic conditions.
Biden Uses State Of The Union To Call For Focus On “Burn Pits,” Which He Believes Affected His Son Beau
President Biden on Tuesday used his first State of the Union address to issue a call to action for Congress to do more to assist veterans experiencing enduring health issues after exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, elevating a matter that hits close to home for him. Mr. Biden raised the long-term harms to veterans who were exposed to burn pit smoke while deployed overseas as he laid out his four-pronged so-called “unity agenda,” which included enhanced support for veterans. (Quinn, 3/1)
Biden Vows VA Will Do Better On Veterans’ Burn Pit Illnesses
“I’m calling on Congress: pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve,” Biden said in his national address, calling it part of “a sacred obligation to equip all those we send to war and care for them and their families when they come home.” Earlier in the day, the White House announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs will recognize nine new respiratory illnesses as conditions presumed linked to veterans’ military service, fast tracking them for payouts and medical care. VA officials said the move will likely affect only about 100 veterans who were previously denied for claims linked to those rare cancers. (Shane III, 3/2)
What Is A Burn Pit? Joe Biden Unveils Plans To Help Veterans In State Of Union Address
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) says that burn pits were areas devoted to the open-air, uncontrolled, combustion of trash. The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Materials burned in these pits included chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions, and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food. Some of the waste burned in these pits could give rise to toxic smoke-containing substances with potential to cause long and short-term health effects. The VA says that the burning of waste in such pits gives rise to more hazards than the burning of waste in controlled conditions such as commercial incinerators. (Lea, 3/2)
And more on Biden’s plan to help nursing homes —
Biden’s Promise Of Better Nursing Home Care Will Require Many More Workers
The Biden administration has identified core impediments to better nursing home care in its proposed overhaul of the industry, but turning aspirations into reality will require a complex task: mandating adequate staffing levels for all homes without bankrupting those that can’t afford far higher labor costs. President Joe Biden’s proposals for the nation’s 15,000 skilled nursing facilities — released in advance of his State of the Union address Tuesday night — would lead to the most substantial increase in federal nursing home regulation since Congress reformed the industry in 1987. (Rau, 3/2)
Biden’s Post-Pandemic Health Plans
President Biden used the State of the Union not only to project optimism about the direction of the pandemic, but also to launch new efforts focused on mental health care and nursing home quality — two areas that have been shown to be deeply in need of reform over the last two years. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated deep societal problems, including within the health care system, and the work of addressing them is likely just beginning. The White House announced a new strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis, including more funding to build up the mental health workforce and new ways of connecting people with the care they need. Biden also announced measures to improve nursing home quality, including minimum staffing levels. (Owens, 3/1)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.