On Thursday, March 3, 2022, the House of Representatives passed the Honoring our PACT Act, which will provide relief to Veterans who were exposed to chemical or environmental hazards during their service. The bill was passed after a long and aggressive campaign by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members.
“Our Veterans should not have to fight for the healthcare they were promised when they put their lives on the line to defend our country,” said VFW National Commander Matthew in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that those who have been exposed to dangerous chemicals or environments receive the care and benefits they deserve.”
The PACT Act is an acronym for Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics. It is meant to serve as a promise that all who fought for their country, and got ill doing so, will get the care and attention they deserve.
The Passing of the Honoring Our PACT Act
Veterans who were exposed to harmful chemicals while serving in the military now have a path to faster access to health treatment and disability benefits, thanks to landmark legislation passed by the House on Thursday.
Congress passed the Honoring Our PACT Act, which is a $208 billion bill that would provide Veterans Affairs coverage for nearly two dozen illnesses connected to battlefield contaminants. The bill got a vote of 256-174. In support of the bill, 34 Republicans voted alongside Democrats.
Mark Takano, the California Democrat who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said at a news conference on Wednesday that if Congress wants to support the cost of starting and maintaining war, it must also acknowledge the financial cost of supporting the Veterans that result from that decision. “We can’t back out of our obligation because of sticker shock,” he stated.
What Was It Like Before the PACT Act?
Toxic exposure claims made by post-9/11 Veterans were handled on a case-by-case basis by the VA, requiring the Veterans to prove that the ailment they suffer is linked to their military service. Except for a few presumptive conditions, Veterans often did not receive the care they needed. Many Veterans were either not service connected or given lower disability ratings because of their “undiagnosable” conditions. This was due in part to the lack of awareness among VA staff.
What’s the Good News?
According to the Honoring Our PACT Act, airborne risks such as burn pits and other sources of pollution are likely to be responsible for 23 different diseases. Additionally, the plan would extend coverage to Vietnam Veterans with hypertension, those exposed to Agent Orange during their service in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, and those exposed to radiation during nuclear waste cleanup.
On the House floor, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, said that anyone who has served in the military or has a loved one who has served knows the price of war. “They are also aware that Veterans are subject to taxation. Military Veterans have children and grandkids they don’t want to burden with debt more than they currently are.”
Replacing the Honoring Our PACT Act with a more condensed version of a Senate bill submitted by House Republicans on Wednesday was defeated by a vote of 203-233, mostly along political lines.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted the bill would cost $208 billion over the next decade. This is good news for Veterans, who might be finally getting the care they deserve!
A new VA method for determining future presumptive illnesses and awarding late compensation to ill Veterans is being proposed by the Senate.
Our Veteran readers will most likely know what most of these mean, but we have included them here for our non-Veteran readers so you can follow through and completely understand why this bill is so important:
1. What is the Toxic Exposure bill?
The bill is designed to provide relief to Veterans who were exposed to certain conditions during their service.
2. What are presumptive conditions?
Presumptive conditions are illnesses that the law presumes to be linked with exposure to toxic chemicals.
3. How will the bill help Veterans?
The bill will help Veterans by providing them with medical benefits and compensation.
The Toxic Exposure bill will provide much-needed relief to Veterans who were exposed to hazardous materials during their service. This Toxic Exposure Bill, which allows these Veterans to file disability claims for conditions that are now considered presumptive (presumed linked to service) because of their exposure, is great news for the thousands of Veterans who have suffered from respiratory problems, cancer, and other health issues as a result of their exposure to the burn pits and other toxic sources.
The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President to become law, but there is hope that it will be enacted soon.
It is important that we continue to support our Veterans, and we urge everyone to call their Senators and ask them to vote in favor of this bill.