WASHINGTON — Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart is back on Capitol Hill and this time is urging lawmakers to assist sick veterans who have been exposed to burn pits.
Last year, Stewart was a key advocate in the years-long legislative battle to ensure that a victims' compensation fund for first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.
Now, Stewart is fighting for the veterans who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks.
"’Welcome to another exciting episode of ‘When is America going to start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?" Stewart declared Tuesday morning.
Stewart spoke alongside Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Raul Ruiz to introduce legislation to help U.S. veterans with illnesses related to toxic burn pits while serving overseas.
"The only difference between the first responders at Ground Zero who were sick and dying from toxic exposure is that was caused by a terrorist attack on our country. The veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering the same illnesses and same toxic exposure because of the actions of our own government. We dug burn pits," Stewart explained.
The burn pits were going non-stop and every hazardous waste was piled into them with jet fuel as the accelerant, Stewart added.
"So, our veterans lived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything," he said.
The bill, sponsored by Gillibrand and Ruiz, would list burn pit exposure as a presumptive condition for any service member who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We're gonna make sure that every one of those people goes on record and is held accountable for the illnesses of our veterans," Stewart said.
During Tuesday's news conference, Sen. Gillibrand compared health problems related to burn pits to those Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffered.
"To put it simply, the bill says that if you were there you are covered," she said. "Plain and simple. This bill applies common sense and common decency to a very broken process.”