Retired Marine colonel on impact of PACT Act

Former State Department official and retired Marine Col. Steve Ganyard reacts to President Joe Biden signing the PACT Act, and the new help for veterans who worked near burn pits overseas.
5:15 | 08/10/22

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Transcript for Retired Marine colonel on impact of PACT Act
DO FOR THE COUNTLESS MEN AND WOMEN, MANY OF WHOM MAY BE IN THIS ROOM FOR ALL I KNOW, WHO SUFFERED TOXIC EXPOSURE WHILE SERVING THEIR COUNTRY. LESS THAN 1% OF YOU, LESS THAN 1%, RISKED EVERYTHING TO PROTECT 99% OF THE POPULATION. 1%, 99%. WE OWE YOU. YOU'RE THE BACKBONE, THE STEEL, THE SCENE YOU, THE VERY FIBER THAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY WHAT IT IS. >> FOR MORE, WE NOW BRING IN ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL, RETIRED MARINE COLONEL STEVE GANYARD. STEVE, THANKS FOR JOINING US. PRESIDENT BIDEN CELEBRATING THE PASSING OF THE PACT ACT, CALLING IT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT LAW OUR NATION HAS EVER PASSED TO HELP MILLIONS OF VETERANS EXPOSED TO BURN PITS. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? >> I THINK THERE'S A BIT OF HYPERBOLE IN THERE, DEIRDRE, BUT IT'S AN IMPORTANT ACT. THERE IS AN OLD ADAGE CALLED THE POTTERY BARN RULE. POTTERY BARN RULE GOES LIKE THIS, IF YOU BREAK IT YOU BOUGHT IT. THAT NEEDS TO BE THE CASE WITH AMERICA'S VETERANS. GOING BACK NOT ONLY 20 YEARS, THE PAST 20 YEARS OF WAR IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, GOING BACK TO VIETNAM AND THE KOREAN WAR. BETTER AND STILL ALIVE, STILL REQUIRING THAT CARE. WOULD HAVE BEEN HERE WITH THE BURN PITS IS THAT A TRADITIONAL WAY OF GETTING RID OF TRASH, EVERY KIND OF TRASH YOU CAN IMAGINE THAT WAS ON ANY KIND OF BASE AROUND THE WORLD WAS JUST BURNED. THEY WOULD PUT SOME KIND OF DIESEL FUEL OR FUEL INTO THAT PIT AND BURN IT. THEY DID KNOW THAT THE TOXIC FUMES, NOBODY REALIZE THAT THE TOXIC SHAMS THAT WERE BEING RELEASED, COULD CAUSE SERIOUS PROBLEMS. NOW, YOU HAVE THESE VETERANS SHOWING UP, YEARS LATER, WITH THESE HORRIBLE PROBLEMS THAT COULD BE DIRECTLY LINKED TO THESE BURN PITS. THE PROBLEM WAS THAT NOBODY REALLY DOCUMENTED AT THE TIME, NOBODY KNEW IT WAS GOING ON, NOBODY KNEW THE EXTENT. BUT IT'S CLEAR THAT THERE IS SOME SORT OF CORRELATION HERE BETWEEN THESE ILLNESSES THAT THE VETERANS ARE GETTING YEARS LATER BUT I JUST NOW SHOWING UP AND ARE JUST NOW BEING TAKEN CARE OF. IN A SPECIAL WAY, WITH SPECIAL FUNDING BY THIS ACT. >> SO, STEVE, WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM THE MILITARY COMMUNITY? >> THEY ARE OBVIOUSLY QUITE SUPPORTIVE. THERE IS A TROPE, DEIRDRE, AFTER THE VIETNAM WAR THAT VETERANS CAME BACK AND THEY WERE BROKEN, THEY HAD PTSD AND IT WAS FALSE THEN AND IT'S FALSE NOW. SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT. VETERANS MAKE 20% MORE THAN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN. THE VETERAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS 35% BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN. SO, VETERANS ARE AN IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTING PART OF SOCIETY. BUT THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BROKEN BY WAR AND WHO NEED TO BE TAKEN CARE OF AND SPECIAL WAYS. THE BURN PIT ISSUE WAS NOT UNDERSTOOD, IT IS BECOMING MORE WELL UNDERSTOOD AND NOW THAT CONGRESS IS TAKING THE STEP, THE PRESIDENT SIGNING TODAY THIS BILL THAT WILL ADD MONEY TO THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNT. TO BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF FOLKS WHO SEEM TO BE AFFECTED BY THESE TOXIC CHEMICALS. >> STEVE, THE PRESIDENT SPEAKING NOT JUST AS A COMMANDER OF CHIEF BUT ALSO AS A GRIEVING PARENT. REMIND US WHY THIS BILL MATTERS SO MUCH TO HIM PERSONALLY. >> OTHER THAN A PARENT WHO HAS LOST A CHILD, NO ONE CAN UNDERSTAND THAT PAIN. SO, SOMEBODY LIKE THE PRESIDENT, WHO HAD A SON GO TO WAR, COME HOME AND YOU SAY OH, THEY SERVED, AND YEARS LATER SOMETHING TURNS OUT THAT TAKES OUR LIFE. THAT'S WHAT A LOT OF THE VETERANS THAT YOU SAW THE ROOM WITH THE PRESIDENT, THAT'S WET THE SHOCK WAS. THEY WENT, THEY SERVE THEIR COUNTRY, THEY SURVIVED, THEY CAME HOME AND HAD PRODUCTIVE LIVES AND THEN YEARS LATER IS SOMETHING THEY WERE EXPOSED TO, OR FOR SOME REASON, THEY DEVELOPED THESE TERRIBLE MYSTERY ILLNESSES. THAT'S WHY THE PRESIDENT HAS VESTED EMOTIONAL INTEREST. >> YEAH, EMOTIONAL FOR MANY. IN FACT, MANY APPEARED TO BE OVERCOME WITH EMOTION, INCLUDING TV HOST JOHN STEWART. HE WAS THERE WHEN THE VOTE INITIALLY PASSED. EVEN GETTING A STANDING OVATION AT THE WHITE HOUSE TODAY. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT RESPONSE? IT'S IN SUPPORT OF HIM PUBLICIZING, RIGHT, THIS ISSUE FOR MANY. >> JOHN STEWART DID A GREAT THING HERE. BECAUSE HE PUSHED FORWARD, HE RALLIED PUBLIC OPINION AROUND THIS IDEA. FOR, YEARS AND HAD BEEN RESISTED BY THE CONGRESS, AS I SAID, BECAUSE THERE WERE NO METRICS. YOU CAN SAY THESE VETERANS OR THE NUMBER OF VETERANS, THIS PERCENTAGE OF VETERANS, ARE GETTING SICK WITH THESE KINDS OF DISEASES BECAUSE OF THIS KIND OF EXPOSURE. SO, WITHOUT THAT METRIC, IT WAS ALL ALMOST ANECDOTAL. BUT FINALLY, WITH PEOPLE LIKE JOHN STEWART CREATING THIS HUGE WAVE OF MOMENTUM OF PUBLIC OPINION FORCING THE CONGRESS TO COME TO GRIPS. THAT IS WHAT WAS CELEBRATED IN THE ROOM THERE WITH THE PRESIDENT. >> STEVE, THANK YOU SO MUCH. WE APPRECIATE YOUR THOUGHTS. STEVE GANYARD THERE WITH US. COMING UP, SENATE SHOWDOWN AND WISCONSIN. WE NOW KNOW WHICH DEMOCRAT WILL FACE OFF AGAINST THE GOP IS RON JOHNSON IN NOVEMBER. WE'LL TELL YOU MORE ABOUT WHAT WE'RE LEARNING AFTER THE STATES HIGH STAKES PRIMARY, NEXT.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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