Reed Backs the PACT Act for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Materials
SASC Chairman supports bipartisan PACT Act, which would provide much-needed resources and healthcare to veterans who were exposed to hazardous materials while in the line of duty
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is urging swift passage of the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022.
The PACT Act is a comprehensive bill to address the health impacts of those who served overseas and were exposed to hazards such as burn pits, radiation, and Agent Orange. It offers expanded VA benefits eligibility for many veterans who were not covered by VA care.
“We can’t wait to support our veterans and provide them with the care they need. Soldiers who were exposed to burn pits and toxic chemicals while fighting for our country shouldn’t have to fight bureaucracy and red tape to access the care they need. This bipartisan bill has been a long time coming and is frankly overdue,” said Senator Reed. “With the passage of this bill, we will recognize that our servicemen and women were exposed to toxins in the line of duty that are contributing to lifelong health issues, and that we must provide them with the care, support, and resources they need. Our veterans deserve the best care possible. The PACT Act will help expand coverage and treatment options for sick veterans suffering from rare conditions and chronic illness, and it should be approved without delay.”
The bill was negotiated by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and it is named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service.
The SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 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 by including 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;
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities.
A one-pager can be found here.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Honoring Our PACT Act will cost $278.5 billion over a decade.
“Taking care of our veterans is a cost of war and if politicians are unwilling to make that commitment then they should think twice before voting to send these brave men and women into harm’s way,” said Senator Reed. “Let’s not waste any more time, get it done, and get these veterans, some of whom have been waiting for years, the help they need.”
The comprehensive, bipartisan bill has the support of many Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), including: the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), and Burn Pits 360, among others.