‘Toxic’: Casey releases new campaign ad touting efforts on behalf of ill veterans in Pa.

Facing a war veteran challenger, Casey is highlighting his efforts to expand VA benefits to those exposed to toxic environments while serving abroad.

Bob Casey

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., smiles while speaking during an event at AFSCME Council 13 offices, March 14, 2024, in Harrisburg, Pa. For Democrats trying to defend the White House and Senate majority, Casey is emerging as the tip of the spear in trying to reframe the election-year narrative around inflation, a key soft spot in 2024 for Democrats on the all-important voter issue of the economy. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

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Sen. Bob Casey is touting his work passing the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — or PACT Act — in a new ad. The bill, signed into law by Pres. Joe Biden in 2022, expanded Veterans Affairs eligibility for vets exposed to toxic environments, such as burn pits.

The ad features Chad Baer, an Army National Guard veteran deployed to Djibouti, where he worked and lived alongside a trash inclinator.

“The haze in the air, you could smell it and taste it,” he tells viewers. “Toxic exposure. Some vets died and I still have trouble breathing.”

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As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Baer developed a registry to identify veterans who may have been exposed to noxious hazards during overseas military service. Discussing the new ad, Baer told reporters that Casey’s support was essential to pass the legislation that made hundreds of thousands of veterans in Pennsylvania eligible for treatment.

“It gave me an incredible amount of strength to know that Sen. Casey was a staunch supporter,” Baer said at a press event. “The senator not only showed unwavering support and leadership in getting the bill passed, but also successfully fought to include provisions to improve recruitment and retention of health care workers at rural VA facilities.”

It’s clear why Casey would look to highlight his work for veterans. His Republican rival, David McCormick, is a West Point graduate who deployed to the Middle East during the First Gulf War and received the Bronze Star while serving in Iraq.

Responding to a question from WHYY, Casey called McCormick a “MAGA-right” Republican, noting McCormick had opposed the “robustly bipartisan” and “toughest border bill Washington had ever seen,” which had initial Republican backing.

“That support collapsed when the leader of their party, their presidential candidate, said, ‘You can’t support it,’” Casey said. “And Mr. McCormick went along with that instead of standing up for border security.”

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Eleven of those senators also voted against the PACT Act, despite its broad bipartisan support.

The McCormick campaign did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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