Fourteen Republican senators, including Mitt Romney and Rand Paul, voted against providing health care benefits to US veterans who came home from America’s post-9/11 wars sick and dying from rare cancers and respiratory illnesses.
Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022— a landmark bill that will presumptively link 23 conditions to a veterans’ exposure to burn pits while on deployment overseas.
As many as one in every five veterans living in America today could directly benefit from the new legislation.
The legislation—introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—legislation overwhelmingly passed the Senate with a vote of 84-14 and now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives and the President’s desk for signature.
Now, around 3.5 million US veterans who lived and worked next to the huge open-air pits will finally be given automatic access to healthcare and disability benefits if they develop one of these conditions on their return home.
The bill sailed through the Senate with largely bipartisan support, with 84 senators voting in favor of its passage.
All Democrats voted yes to pass the bill – but 14 Republicans voted no.
“For hundreds of thousands of veterans, generations of our all-volunteer military and their families—this bill is putting us on a path to finally recognizing the toxic wounds of war,” said Tester. “This bill is the legislation we envisioned when we set out to right the wrongs to our toxic-exposed veterans.”
“Our men and women in uniform held up their end of the bargain, and I’m proud we’re holding up ours,” said Tester.
“As a nation, we recognize the physical, obvious wounds of war,” said Moran. “We are improving our ability to recognize and treat the mental wounds of war, though we still have a long ways to go.”
“No longer can we ignore the wounds of war from toxic exposures. Veterans suffering from toxic exposures have been relying on a broken system cobbled together through decades of patchwork fixes that often leaves them without health care or benefits,” said Moran. “Today, the Senate took a consequential step to right this wrong by passing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act.”
“This legislation will provide comprehensive relief for all generations of veterans, from Agent Orange to the 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans exposed to burn pits during their deployments,” said Moran. “Our nation’s veterans and their families will no longer have to fear being turned away from the VA for illnesses related to toxic-exposures.”
The senators who voted against the bill were: Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho.
Senators Steve Daines and Roger Wicker were absent from the vote.