President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign is hoping to make care for veterans with burn pit injuries a talking point in his bid for a second term and will launch a new ad Saturday featuring two of the most prominent advocates linked to that work.
Rose and Le Roy Torres, founders of Burn Pits 360, appear in the ad titled “Proud,” which will be aired across a host of TV networks on Veterans Day. In the spot, the pair credit Biden with expanding health care options for veterans exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That includes signing into law the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — better known as the PACT Act — in summer 2022. The legislation was crafted and passed by Congress after Biden lobbied for it during his State of the Union address in March of that year.
Le Roy Torres served in the Army Reserve and developed severe breathing problems linked to the toxic smoke from burn pits around the bases where he was stationed. Since then, he has been diagnosed with lung disease and toxic brain injuries.
Both he and his wife were two of the most visible advocates for the PACT Act, which granted presumptive benefits status for 12 types of cancer and 12 other respiratory illnesses linked to burn pit smoke exposure during the recent wars.
The Department of Defense has estimated nearly 3.5 million troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered enough exposure to the smoke to cause health problems.
Veterans Affairs officials this week said nearly 550,000 claims related to the PACT Act have been approved since August 2022. Biden campaign officials have signaled that they hope to make veterans care and benefits a significant theme of their re-election efforts.
Meanwhile, Republican officials this week blasted the president’s record on veteran policy since he took office, focusing mostly on criticisms related to the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
Among the various news shows and sporting events where the ad will air are the two military service academy football games scheduled for Veterans Day. Army will take on Holy Cross at noon and Navy will take on University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.