Jon Stewart

talk show host
veterans' health care

Don't penalize veterans for your budgeting error.

Don't penalize veterans for your budgeting error.

Published: Dec 08, 2022 4 min read

Jon Stewart has a new show. Well, new-ish.

The Problem with Jon Stewart, which airs on Apple TV+, is technically in the thick of its second season. But for a guy who had the longest-running tenure (16 years) on one of America’s longest-running comedy programs (The Daily Show on Comedy Central), two seasons makes it still very much in its infancy.

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And like its predecessor, money topics come up a lot on The Problem.

A recent episode called “Where is Our Tax Money Going?” juxtaposes man-on-the-street interviews with average American taxpayers — who are annoyed and confused about what the government does with the money taken from their paychecks — with those in countries like Sweden and France, where residents are taxed at much higher rates in exchange for health insurance and child care (and are pretty psyched about it). “Globalization” sheds light on how state incentives aimed at getting companies to move there often results in lower wages for the workers those companies hire. And in “The Economy,” actor Levar Burton explains the relationship between slave labor and modern wage stagnation, Reading Rainbow-style.

But no issue has incurred more of Stewart’s indignation than the U.S. health care system when it comes to providing benefits to veterans and emergency responders.

“They lived up to the agreement. They lived up to their end of the bargain," Stewart said in an interview with CBS News earlier this year. "You fought for the country, and the country has to hold up its agreement to you. This is the cost of war … don't penalize veterans for your budgeting error."

In the Daily Show era, he went whole hog in an attempt to convince Congress to raise the budget cap on health care coverage for 9/11 first responders, a cause he’s revisited off-air in recent years. (In 2019, Stewart gave a scathing speech to legislators dragging their feet on permanently funding coverage for first responders. The Victims Compensation Fund, which guarantees long-term care for thousands of firefighters, police and other rescuers who rushed to the scene of the terrorist attacks, passed a few months later).

His attention is now on veterans who were exposed to burn pits — which were used for years to dispose of waste materials collected on military bases in the Middle East — and the challenges they face in getting the government to foot the bill for treatment.

On the first-ever episode of The Problem, Stewart exposed the growing number of service members suffering from respiratory illnesses and cancer as a result of this exposure, and he eviscerated the Department of Veterans Affairs for denying an estimated 75% of related claims. This summer, he went back to Capitol Hill again, urging senators to approve a bill expanding veteran health care to include burn pit coverage.

Once again, a short while later, it passed.

Veterans are not “on Senate time,” Stewart told CNN in July. “They’re on human time … and that time is precious.”