The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to expand healthcare and disability benefits to some 3.5 million former U.S. service members poisoned by toxic substances from waste burning pits on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The PACT Act, which now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law, is set to be the biggest expansion of health benefits to veterans in over 30 years but provides no aid to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who continue to bear the brunt of the health and economic impacts of the toxic burn pits. "The campaign for veteran healthcare could have been a joint struggle that included Iraqi [and Afghan] people," says Purdue University professor Kali Rubaii, who is just back from Fallujah, Iraq, where she was speaking with residents about the impact of the burn pits. She explains how the profit-driven U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan fueled the massive scale of burn pits in the region. We also speak with the Quincy Institute’s Kelley Vlahos, who discusses the congressional lead-up to the bill, which she says put "veterans in the crosshairs."
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