WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, two dozen Republican Senators recklessly reversed their prior support for the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, citing erroneous concerns that the bill’s dedicated funding for veterans health care would become a “slush fund.”  Because of the Republican filibuster, the U.S. Senate will have only one more shot to pass the bill.

 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to hold a new Senate floor vote on the PACT Act this week

 

With Senate Republicans facing the choice of continuing to filibuster and killing the bill or passing the veterans-supported bill they had previously voted for, 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), who voted in favor of the PACT Act both times, is imploring Senate Republicans to do the right thing and help care for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances.

 

“Senate Republican leaders did a serious disservice to veterans when they flipped their votes and blocked the bipartisan PACT Act.  They were for it, then against it.  By flipping their votes, on what is essentially the same bill they supported just weeks ago, Republicans are delaying access to treatment for toxic-exposed veterans,” said Senator Reed.  “The Majority Leader has pledged to bring the PACT Act back for a revote this week and I urge Republicans to approve it without further delay.” 

 

The PACT Act would expand VA health care eligibility to more than 3.5 million post-9/11 combat veterans who were exposed to toxins and burn pits during their military service.  It would create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure, expand VA’s list of service presumptions, and improve resources to support VA’s claims processing.

 

But even after the landmark bill previously garnered 84 votes in the U.S. Senate and 342 in the U.S. House of Representatives, 25 Republican Senators flipped their votes and are now demanding part of the bill be re-written, despite the fact that no substantive changes were made in the technical corrections measure that overwhelmingly passed the House with strong bipartisan support.

 

Now, with vulnerable veterans left in limbo, and Senate Republicans offered a second chance to do the right thing and support our combat veterans, Senator Reed issued the following statement: 

 

“The PACT Act assists veterans who made real sacrifices to serve our country and are now experiencing serious health challenges directly connected to their service.  Eighty-four U.S. Senators came together and voted to approve this bill on the merits and help veterans get vital care and treatment. 

 

“I urge Republicans who already voted for this bill to keep the commitment they made to veterans.  I know my Republican colleagues respect our veterans.  But it’s not enough to simply talk about respecting men and women who served, Republicans need to back it up with votes.  If they oppose unrelated legislation, then let’s have a separate debate on that legislation, but don’t use veterans with cancer and other serious health issues as pawns.  They deserve better from their elected officials. 

 

“My colleagues on the other side know full well that they have multiple opportunities and mechanisms to address funding issues through the annual appropriations process.  If they continue blocking the PACT Act now it will only harm veterans.”

 

President Joe Biden has promised to sign the legislation immediately if it is approved by Congress.

 

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