President Biden was speaking at a town hall event with veterans Friday when he repeated a false claim about the number of times he’s visited Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president was the featured speaker at a town hall event hosted by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the last Vietnam veteran serving in the Senate, at the Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center near New Castle, Delaware. Elected officials and veterans groups gathered there Friday to discuss the PACT Act — legislation Biden signed that expands medical benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances from burn pits.
“I’ve been in and out, not as, obviously, a combatant, but in and out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and those areas 38, 39 times as vice president, only twice as president,” Biden told his audience as he related discussions that occurred before the law was enacted.
The president exaggerated the number of times he’s visited the Middle East, which he has done before. In his first State of the Union address, Biden falsely claimed he had traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan “over 40 times.” The actual number is closer to 21 times, according to a PolitiFact fact-check that rated his claim “false” in March.
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While Biden has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq many times, including to visit his late son, Beau, who served in Iraq, he has a habit of exaggerating his visits when speaking in public. In 2019, he made up a story about a four-star general asking the then-vice president to travel to Knar, Afghanistan, to award a medal to a Navy captain. The Washington Post exposed the tale as a fib, and the Biden campaign admitted the correct number was 21 trips, some of which happened while Biden was serving as a U.S. senator from 1973 to 2009.
Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. His father, the president, has often attributed Beau’s illness and death to exposure to toxins forum burn pits in Iraq.
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Burn pits have been used by the military to remove household trash, as well as more toxic substances, including paint, metals, plastics and human waste. The fires burned toxic chemicals and were often close to areas in which service members lived and worked while overseas.
“Toxic smoke, thick with poisons, spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops,” Biden said at the bill-signing ceremony in August. “When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son, Beau, was one of them.”
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The president signed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act of 2022 in the East Room of the White House on Aug. 10. The bill is expected to assist more than 5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
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The PACT Act will expand eligibility for Veterans Affairs health care, make it easier for military veterans to qualify for VA services, strengthen toxic exposure research and improve care for veterans exposed to toxins. Eligible veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors can apply for PACT Act benefits.
The president had called on U.S. lawmakers to work on burn pits legislation during his first State of the Union address earlier this year. It passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
Fox News’ Landon Mion and Kelly Laco contributed to this report.