Connecticut widow watches president sign law to help burn pit victims
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Amy Antioho of Berlin, Connecticut says her husband Peter arrived home from his deployment seemingly okay. Yet soon, he discovered he had a deadly tumor after she said he was exposed to burn pits in Afghanistan.
“For me, personally, for my family, it’s too late. But I’m grateful to have a place to tell our story so that hopefully other veterans and their families can be inspired to just not give up,” said Antioho as she stood at the White House Wednesday to watch President Joe Biden sign a bipartisan bill into law. The PACT act expands medical care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits used in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
“With this bill, it will be hopefully easier for them (veterans) than it was for us to get the care that they have earned that they deserve. And it’s very it’s just important to me that people don’t give up, don’t take no for an answer,” Antioho added said.
Antioho credited Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for helping her fight for expanded medical benefits for veterans.
She discussed what she went through after her husband became sick.
“Our son was two at the time when he (her husband) was diagnosed and given about nine months to live. And, he lived for about two and a half years, kept fighting. And, during that time I missed time with him because I was fighting the VA,” said Antioho about her struggle to obtain medical benefits for her husband. “So what this means is that people can spend time with their loved ones who are going to die, who are already living with these cancers, these horrible diseases. But, instead of having to gather evidence and become an overnight lawyer and doctor and, you know... they can spend this very precious time with family instead.”
Senator Blumenthal joined credited veterans for pushing the bill past the finish line in Congress.
“We are the greatest nation in the history of the world. When we send men and women into harm’s way, part of the costs of war are to make them fine when they come back or at least give them the care and benefits they need. And, we make that promise. The nation failed to fulfill that promise to Peter Antioho,” said Sen. Blumenthal who added, “as he said, shouldn’t have to call a United States Senator to get what you deserve. And Peter’s family continued to fight for those other families.”
The PACT act didn’t have an easy road to the President’s desk.
Advocates for veterans protested after some Republicans, who previously supported the bill, temporarily blocked the act in an attempt to add cost-controlling measures. The bill eventually passed with bipartisan support.
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart played a role in helping to push the measure forward. He too attended the bill’s signing at the White House.
“We’ve been doing this a long time and it’s very nice to see them with a little bit of this burden off their shoulders,” said Stewart.
The bill also has a personal connection to President Biden.
The President believes his son, Beau, was impacted by the burn pits during his time in the service.
Beau Biden died of a brain tumor in 2015.
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