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Jon Stewart’s Long, Lonely Fight for Veteran Health Care

On Thursday, Jon Stewart joined a group of Democrats and veterans to lay into the Senate for failing to pass the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. The bill promised $300 billion over the next decade for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funding for increased health care services and disability benefits. The bill needed 60 votes to pass but fell 55-42. All Senate Democrats and eight Republicans voted for the bill, but 42 Republicans voted against. Twenty-five Republicans who’d voted yes on a previous version of the bill changed their vote.

“I’m used to the hypocrisy,” Stewart seethed. “But I’m not used to the cruelty.”

Opponents cited concerns that veterans may use their healthcare benefits to treat issues unrelated to their service, and expressed concerns that the VA may not be able to handle the influx of new cases.

While Stewart built his reputation as a liberal firebrand throughout the 2000s on his famed Comedy Central show, he has devoted an enormous amount of his career to advocating for healthcare for veterans and first responders. He’s a regular feature on Capitol Hill, excoriating politicians who drag their feet on providing funding for injuries men and women sustained while serving their country.

He is widely credited with helping break a 2009 Congressional deadlock on providing healthcare for 9/11 first responders, and he has continued to push for the government to take better care of the men and women of New York Police Department, Fire Department and more who ran into Ground Zero. In 2019, he laid into lawmakers’ “rank hypocrisy” and “shameful” actions that had cost 9/11 first responders “their most valuable commodity: time.”

Now, in a profanity-laced speech, Stewart has once again tabled his snarky asides for red-hot fury, accusing the government of being all too happy to send men and women off to the frontlines but refusing to take care of the ones who make it back. Senator John Cornyn said Republicans wanted to negotiate to “eliminate some of the mandatory spendings in the bill,” something Stewart pushed back on in an appearance on Newsmax.

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“There isn’t unrelated spending to it,” he said. “They’re saying there could be if there wasn’t oversight, but that’s what the Senate’s job is. The bill itself is incredibly detailed and prescriptive about what it’s for. It’s about treating and preventing the different conditions that veterans are coming home with, including cancers and chronic bronchitis and all these other issues from their exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“They don’t support the troops. They support the war machine. And that’s gotta stop,” he continued. “The value in the U.S. military isn’t in the toys. It’s not in the hardware. It’s not in the tanks. It’s in the men and women. And until they start supporting them in the manner that they purport to online, they’re hypocrites.”

In a press conference, Stewart accused lawmakers of putting veterans out of sight, out of mind. “They don’t have to hear it, they don’t have to see it,” he said. “They don’t have to understand that these are human beings. Do you get it yet? Do we see that? These are the heroes. These are men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers.”

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