America owes its veterans a lot. After a Republican-led refusal blocked the final passage of the bill last week, on Tuesday this week momentum shifted. The U.S. Senate finally passed a historic veterans health care bill. Known as the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, the bill will expand VA health care eligibility for veterans suffering from toxic exposure to burn pits in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The bill now heads to the president’s desk.
The bipartisan legislation expands eligibility to more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans all across the nation; veterans who lived and worked near the burn pits used to burn equipment and materials loaded with toxic chemicals.
“After years of inaction from Washington, the PACT Act represents the largest expansion of veteran health care benefits in decades,” said U.S. Senator for Colorado Michael Bennet. “This bill will ensure that millions of veterans who suffer from conditions related to toxic exposure receive the care they have earned and deserve. Our veterans have waited long enough. I urge the president to sign the PACT Act into law without delay.”
Along with expanding VA eligibility to 23 toxic exposure and burn pit related conditions, the PACT Act would create a framework to establish future presumptions related to toxic exposure.
This legislation would also expand presumptions for Agent Orange exposure in places like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam and American Samoa, strengthen federal research on toxic exposure, improve the VA’s ability to treat toxic exposed veterans, and help the VA boost capacity.
Featured Image: the United States Capitol building.