Senate Passes PACT Act to Help Veterans
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday on the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, a bill that addresses health care for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during military service.
The vote count was 84-14, with two members not voting. The bill will return to the House with amendments from the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hopes to move swiftly so that the legislation can land on President Joe Biden’s desk soon. The bill is expected to pass in the House sometime this week.
“Senate passage of the bipartisan PACT Act is an historic victory for America’s veterans, their families and caregivers, and for our nation,” Pelosi said in a press release.
“With this life-saving legislation, we open up access to VA health care to 3.5 million post-9/11 combat veterans potentially exposed to deadly toxins, while granting presumptions of exposure for veterans with rare cancers and other debilitating diseases,” she added.
During discussions on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke on the importance of passing this bill as soon as they can for the sake of our veterans.
“They volunteered, went off to war and were exposed to toxins. That’s the cost of war. The American people cannot let them down. The bill … represents that change,” Schumer said.
While many in Congress support the bill, some senators, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted against the PACT Act.
Romney stated that he voted against the bill for two main reasons.
“First, it calls for billions in new mandatory spending — funding that Congress didn’t provide for in the budget that would add to the deficit and to the debt,” he said.
“Second, it directs the federal government to annually buy nearly a billion dollars of land. … I will continue to push for policies that increase local control and input on how Utah’s lands are managed,” he added.
Between 2022 and 2031, the PACT Act would increase direct spending by approximately $282 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO projects that 5.4 million of the 19 million veterans in the nation will receive some kind of disability compensation in 2022. By 2031, they expect this number to rise to 6.1 million veterans.
With the help of the PACT Act, an additional 100,000 veterans would receive compensation in 2022. By 2031 nearly 2 million more would receive compensation.
With the passage of the PACT Act, the CBO also predicts that “50% of the veteran population not previously eligible for VA health care would become eligible; many of those veterans eventually would enroll in the VA health care system.”
The Washington Post hosted an event in October 2019, at which Joe Biden linked his late son Beau’s glioblastoma to the burn pits he encountered while serving in the military.
“And because of exposure to burn pits — in my view, I can’t prove it yet — he came back with stage 4 glioblastoma,” Biden said.
Biden is expected to sign the PACT Act into law.
“Above all, this legislation makes good on our sacred obligation to care for veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors. … I urge the House to swiftly pass this bill so I can sign it into law right away,” Biden said.
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