WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight, after the U.S. Senate voted 86-11 to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act), U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (Milcon-VA), issued the following statement:

 

“Passing the PACT Act means the VA can finally fulfill its obligations to our veterans and ensure that those who were exposed to toxic chemicals can access the timely, specialized care and treatment they need.  I hope President Biden will quickly sign it into law so the VA can begin to implement it and carry out its difficult mission of serving and caring for veterans who honorably served our nation.

 

“Those who needlessly held up this bill owe our veterans an apology.  There was no last-minute budgetary gimmick added to this bill.  In fact, not a single word was added.  Senate Republicans failed to provide a credible explanation for why they suddenly blocked it.  Their attempted face-saving amendment failed because it would have shortchanged veterans.  If this is a sign of things to come, I am concerned that Republicans will try to shortchange veterans in future appropriations bills and are not committed to fully meeting the PACT Act’s obligations.  As an Appropriator, I will do everything I can to ensure that doesn’t happen and that this bill is fully funded.

 

“Any member of Congress who votes to send young men and women to war better be prepared to vote to care for our troops when they come home.  Too many Congressional Republicans seem willing to write blank checks for bullets and bombs, then turn around and try to paint veterans’ health care as some type of so-called unaffordable, liberal entitlement. 

 

“I’m glad Republicans came to their senses to honor our nation’s heroes by finally passing the PACT Act.  I hope there will be more bipartisan momentum for needed investments to improve veterans’ health services and ensure every veteran can access timely, high-quality care when and where they need it.”

 

The PACT Act will:

 

•           Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;

•           Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;

•           Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;

•           Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure (includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure);

•           Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;

•           Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and

•           Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in: VA claims processing; VA’s workforce; and VA health care facilities.