American Legion Presents Dr. Ruiz with National Distinguished Public Service Award for Leadership on Burn Pits & Key Veterans Issues

WASHINGTON —The American Legion today, Feb. 28, recognized Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., CA-25, with the Distinguished Public Service Award for his leadership in helping pass the Honoring our PACT Act, a historic law to help veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins receive the health care and benefits they earned, need, and deserve. Dr. Ruiz received the award during the 60th Annual National Commander’s Call in Washington, D.C.

“I am so honored to accept the American Legion’s National Commander’s Distinguished Public Service Award,” Dr. Ruiz said in his acceptance speech. “Over the years, it has been a great pleasure to work with many of you in this room to secure the recognition, benefits, and care our nation’s veterans have earned, deserve, and need. The Honoring our PACT Act is now the law of the land because of you. This is a great victory that we share together because of the leadership and advocacy of the American Legion.”

The Distinguished Public Service Award also recognized Ruiz for his advocacy to protect non-citizen veterans and their families and help bring home unfairly deported veterans.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39), the author of the Honoring our PACT Act and the Veteran Service Recognition Act, was in attendance at today’s National Commander’s Call. Ruiz and Ranking Member Takano worked closely together to get the Honoring our PACT to President Biden’s desk and pass legislation protecting unfairly deported veterans out of the House last Congress.

​​“After years of advocating for toxic-exposed veterans, Dr. Ruiz’s Distinguished Public Service Award is well-deserved,” said Takano. “Thanks to his partnership and collaboration with the Committee and with Legionnaires, we were able to develop a meaningful and comprehensive law that expanded care to over 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans. I congratulate Dr. Ruiz on this impressive honor and look forward to continuing our fight to continue helping all who served.

The American Legion is one of the most influential veteran organizations in the United States focused on advocating for the rights and benefits of veterans, servicemembers, and communities. Currently, the organization has more than 13,000 posts worldwide, including several posts in California’s 25th Congressional, including in El Centro, Hemet, Calexico, Calipatria, Banning, Brawley, and Indio.

The organization’s National Commander’s Distinguished Public Service Award is an annual award presented to an official who has established an outstanding record in support of servicemembers and veterans and the principles advanced by The American Legion. Previous recipients include Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA-26).

Now signed into law, the Honoring our PACT Act addresses the full gamut of issues impacting toxic-exposed veterans’ access to earned benefits and care. Dr. Ruiz authored key provisions of the legislation, which establish a presumption of service connection for 23 conditions, including respiratory conditions and cancers. This benefits approximately 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other airborne hazards during their service overseas.

As Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ruiz led the advocacy for the Veteran Service Recognition Act, which aims to prevent the deportation of noncitizen servicemembers and gives them due process in America and a fair shot at a pathway to citizenship. The legislation, introduced by Ranking Member Takano, passed the House last year in the 117th Congress.

Image Sources

  • Rep. Raul Ruiz: Congressman Ruiz's office