By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Military-Veterans Advocacy (MVA) today welcomed the U.S. Senate's passage of the Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, which would provide presumptive benefits for 23 diseases and disabilities suffered by veterans exposed to open-air burn pits in Southwest Asia.
Passed by a vote of 85-15, the bill would also provide coverage for Vietnam war- era veterans presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals while stationed in Guam, American Samoa, Johnston Island, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, as well as radiation veterans in Eniwetok, Palomares Spain and Uzbekistan.
The bill provides a framework for the Department of Veterans Affairs to use in determining other presumptive disabilities caused by military toxic exposure.
“MVA has supported the PACT Act concept for years,” said John B Wells, a retired Navy officer and current chairman of MVA. “In our visits to the Hill over the last few years, we have championed the need for comprehensive legislation, While this bill does not cover all toxic exposures, it is a huge step in the right direction.”
The bill now goes back to the House where swift passage is expected. President Biden has indicated that he will sign the bill. It will take effect on Oct. 3.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said the PACT Act of 2022 would deliver comprehensive benefits to all generations of veterans who have suffered due to toxic exposure, for the first time in our nation’s history
The legislation is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a Central Ohio veteran who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard, and passed away in 2020 from cancer as a result of toxic exposure during his military service.
Brown recently joined SFC Robinson’s family to urge his Senate colleagues to keep their promise to our veterans and pass the PACT Act.
“Providing health care and benefits for veterans who suffer from toxic exposure is a cost of going to war. If you were exposed to toxins while serving our country, you deserve the benefits you earned, period. No exceptions,” said Brown.
“Today, the Senate finally recognized that and soon it will be the law of the land.”
The PACT Act will:
Expand VA health care eligibility to post-9/11 combat veterans and 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;
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; and
Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in claims processing; workforce; and health care facilities.