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President Biden’s focus on burn pits in State of the Union Address hits home in Coachella Valley

President Biden called for action on the issue of burn pits in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

"I'm also calling on Congress to pass a law to ensure veterans devastated by the toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve," Biden said.

Burn pits are large piles of toxic debris burned on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan with jet fuel. They're known to cause certain types of cancer in veterans that lead to painful deaths.

Four years ago, we took an in-depth look at the drastic, long-term effects burn pits have on veterans here in the valley.

Jennifer Kepner, a local veteran from Cathedral City, died at the age of 39 from pancreatic cancer caused by exposure to burn pits.

We spoke to her back in 2017 about the hardships she faced after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Kepner died on Oct. 18, 2017. Before her passing, Kepner said she fought every day to not become another statistic.

"This is the agent orange of our generation, this is our agent orange," Kepner said. "I fight every single day. I don't want to be part of that statistic."

Local Congressman Raul Ruiz spoke at her funeral and also spoke on the topic ahead of the State of the Union.

"I've been leading that for years," Ruiz said. "We're on the cusp of voting for a comprehensive bill that will help our veterans out of the house this week."

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John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.

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