House passes bill to expand benefits for veterans with toxic exposure

On Wednesday, the House approved long-awaited legislation that will increase benefits for veterans who get illnesses as a result of hazardous exposures while serving in the military.

The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act’s main objective is to give 3.5 million veterans who served after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assault and were exposed to toxic burn pits more access to care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) according to The Hill.

The measure saw a bipartisan vote of 342-88 and had a wider margin than the lower chamber saw during the bill‘s original passing in march due to gaining more Republican support with 123 joining Democrats in advancing the measure.

the Senate eventually approved the legislation by a vote of 84 to 14 in June, with Technical drafting errors in the law that were enacted last month having been corrected, moving the legislation back to the upper chamber of Congress.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said during his comments about the legislation that Congress was “setting a new standard with the PACT Act.”

“We’re telling our veterans the burden of proof is not on you,” Takano said. “Because of your sacrifice to our country, this Congress and the American people are giving you the benefit of the doubt you have earned.”

The Act also extends Agent Orange presumptions to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Guam. Agent Orange was primarily utilized during the Vietnam War.

In the years following 9/11, medical waste, human waste, and other waste that needed to be disposed of were burned outside in burn pits. Long-term exposure to the chemicals can cause conditions like asthma, rhinitis, and cancer, some of which take years to manifest.

The VA added nine uncommon respiratory malignancies in April, including five different types of lung cancer that are thought to be service-related as a result of exposures. The Honoring Our PACT Act also includes 23 burn pit and toxic waste sites and establishes a framework for the VA to make presumptive service links linked to hazardous exposures including five different lung cancers.