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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Denis R. McDonough

Remarks on VA’s Efforts to Provide Benefits and Care to Veterans Exposed to Environmental Toxins
Ft. Worth, Texas
March 8, 2022

Hello! It’s an honor to be here with all of you, and of course, with President Biden.

The President and I just visited some terrific VA employees here in Ft. Worth, who fight like hell every day to serve Vets as well as they’ve served us. During that visit, I was reminded of how lucky we are to have President Biden leading us—championing VA employees, Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.  

Thank you, for everything, Mr. President.

You know, whenever someone signs up to serve our country in the military, we make them a simple promise:

If you take care of us, we’ll take care of you.

If you fight for us, we’ll fight for you.

If you serve us, we’ll serve you when you come home.

Vets depend on that promise—on us. And there’s no place where keeping that promise is more critical than environmental exposures.

While Veterans fought for us overseas, many of them were breathing in toxic fumes and particulate matter. Later, some of those Vets developed conditions that followed them home—that impacted or took their lives long after the final bullets of war were fired.

It’s our job to provide those Vets with benefits and care for those conditions. But for too long, those Vets haven’t gotten what they deserve.

But President Biden has made it clear that those days are over. We will keep our promise to those Vets—and get them the benefits and care they’ve earned.

To that end, we’ve already established presumptions of service connection for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis; we’ve announced our intent to propose a new rule that would add presumption of service connection for nine rare respiratory cancers; and we’re fundamentally changing, improving, and expediting how these presumptions are established moving forward.

This progress makes President Biden the first President to proactively address particulate exposure for the Vets who have fought our wars for the past 30 years. And—more importantly—it means that more than 12,500 Vets are finally getting the benefits they’re owed, with many more to come.

And this is just the beginning. With President Biden leading the way, we’ll stop at nothing to get these Vets timely access to the benefits and care they deserve.

Because they’ve waited for far too long—they shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

Now, I’d like to hand it over to Councilwoman Elizabeth Beck.

The Councilwoman is an Iraq War Veteran, representative of Fort Worth’s 9th District, and of her constituents happens to be my brother—who attests to what you already know... which is that Councilwoman Beck is an incredible leader and public servant.

Councilwoman: over to you.