U.S. Senate Passes PACT Act to Support Veterans
WASHINGTON, DC – In a major victory for veterans and their families and caregivers, the U.S. Senate today voted 84 to 14 to pass the 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 toxic hazards, such as burn pits, radiation, and Agent Orange. It offers expanded VA health care eligibility for many veterans who were not previously covered by VA care.
U.S. Senator Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, strongly supported the measure and gave a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week urging his colleagues to swiftly approve the bipartisan bill.
“We ask a lot of our servicemembers, veterans, and their families. It is our duty to ensure we honor their sacrifices and care for them when they come home, and the Honoring Our PACT Act delivers on that responsibility,” said Senator Reed. “With the passage of this bill, we recognize that we must provide for our servicemen and women who were exposed to toxins in the line of duty. 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 final version of 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.
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. I was glad to see such a strong, bipartisan vote of over 80 of my Senate colleagues for this important bill that is going to help veterans and their families and save lives,” 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.”
Now the bill has been passed by the full U.S. Senate, it must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to pass the Senate version and send it along to President Biden, who has indicated his strong support for the measure and willingness to sign it into law.