September 16, 2020
After a successful battle with Congress in seeking federal compensation for first responders and others diagnosed with 9/11-related illnesses, comedian and activist Jon Stewart is continuing his fight for those who have fallen ill on the government's watch.
This time, Stewart is going to bat for veterans exposed to burn pit toxins while deployed overseas.
This week, Stewart along with lawmakers, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), brought attention to The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act. The legislation looks to streamline the ability for veterans affected to receive VA benefits.
Stewart, who is no rookie when it comes to making his voice heard in Congress, is even more prepared this go-round as he gears up for what could be another long political fight, he told Cheddar. His goal, he said, is to stop the government's typical process of sweeping issues under the rug.
"Injustice thrives in the dark. And so, the strategy for them, whether it be from ignorance or malevolence, or incompetence, or laziness is to keep this in the dark, and our job is to force this into the light and make everybody face these brave individuals," Stewart continued.
While supporters of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund saw success in their quest to receive support from the federal government, Stewart said the fight for those subjected to toxic conditions is ongoing.
"The first responders respond to 9/11 on the burn pile and they get sick, and they're dying, and Congress won't help them. And then the veterans, who went to prosecute those wars, get sick because of burn pits that we built and now again, Congress isn't taking care of them," he said.
Before extending the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Congress heard emotional testimony from retired NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder, Luis Alvarez, who died just weeks later in hospice care. Stewart said he hopes this fight for veterans isn't as strenuous.
"They're waiting for people to die. It's nonsense," he noted.