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Biden to sign burn pits bill into law on Wednesday

Alfred V. Lopez / DVIDS

President Joe Biden is set to sign a bill that will expand healthcare and benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Biden is scheduled to sign the bill into law at the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday, August 10.

Congress passed the bill, the PACT Act, last week. The Senate originally struck it down, but came back on Tuesday and overwhelmingly passed the bill.

We've been bringing you coverage of a veteran's fight for this bill over the past five years.

In Sept. 2017, local veteran Jennifer Kepner spoke with News Channel 3's John White about her exposure to burn pits led to her pancreatic cancer.

Kepner lost her battle with cancer just a month after her interview with John. She was 39 years old. Kepner spent the last months of her life fighting not for herself but for her family to make sure her husband Ben and two young children would be okay.

"I want my husband and my children to be compensated if something happens to me," Kepner told John White in 2017.

"The VA denied Ben Kepner the survivor benefits or death benefits and because they didn't see the link to burn pits, I got involved and fought with the Kepner family to eventually get them the benefits they have earned and they need it," said Congressman Raul Ruiz.

The PACT Act passing means there will be presumptive benefits for veterans who have over 20 different illnesses including a number of cancers. Benefits that would have helped Kepner when she was alive.

Since Kepner's passing, Ruiz has helped lead the fight the charge in Congress to address the military’s use of toxic burn pits. The PACT Act includes language from the Ruiz bill, the Jennifer Kepner HOPE Act, to expand eligibility for care to veterans who participated in a toxic exposure risk activity while serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.  

"We brought justice to Jennifer Kepner, her family, and all the other veterans and veteran service organizations who have been fighting for this for so many years. A promise made was a promise kept," Ruiz said.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

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