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President Biden signs burn pits bill into law; News Channel 3 live from Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a bill that will expand healthcare and benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

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.

News Channel 3's John White was in the White House for the signing. He will be live at 5:00 and 6:00 tonight to bring you the latest chapter in a promise kept to a local veteran.

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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News Channel 3's live coverage in Washington, D.C. is supported by the Coachella Valley Journalism Foundation. The organization's mission is to "promote and support excellent, sustainable community journalism in the Coachella Valley." Learn more here.

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Jesus Reyes

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