Updated: September 30, 2022
Today, the US Senate passed comprehensive, bipartisan legislation that would deliver expanded health care for veterans with health conditions related to toxic burn pits and Agent Orange exposure.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 is named after Robinson, who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service.
“Over decades of conflict, millions of American servicemembers have been exposed to burn pits and other toxic materials,” aid US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “These men and women risked their lives in service to our nation, and we have a duty to ensure they get care for conditions caused by these toxic exposures.”
Sen. Hirono said in a statement that she and her colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee worked for months to craft a bill that meets the country’s duty to these veterans.
“This moment would not have been possible without all of the veterans and their loved ones who have shared their stories and advocated for these long-overdue changes,” Sen. Hirono said. “I thank them for their service and bravery, and I look forward to this bill being signed into law on their behalf.”
US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) also supported the legislation, saying: “For decades, the government has failed service members and veterans who have fallen ill from exposure to dangerous toxic substances while they served our country. This bipartisan bill will finally help make things right and provide the health care and benefits our veterans deserve.”
Among its many priorities, the 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 (idea taken to be true although not known for certain) 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
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in the VA claims processing, VA’s workforce and VA health care facilities.
The bipartisan legislation was authored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS).
The bill now heads to the US House of Representatives for consideration. If it passes, it goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.