A bill addressing health care for veterans suffering from toxic material exposures passed the U.S. Senate Thursday, June 16. Montana Senator Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, had been pushing for passage of the bipartisan bill. Montana Senator Steve Daines also supported the “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022.

Many wounds from toxic exposure were only seen years later in cancer cases or lung disease – including hypertension from Vietnam Agent Orange exposure and post 9-11 veterans who were exposed to “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill will expand the list of Agent Orange diseases and recognizes certain toxic exposures during the post 9-11 era. It establishes a new health care process for helping toxic-exposed veterans now and into the future. It also adds funds for VA claims processing.

On the Senate floor, Tester said, “It’s not a new issue. Generation after generation of Americans have gone to war, backed by a promise that we made for them when they signed up that we would care for them when they came home. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in the case of toxic exposure. This bill is about righting a wrong that has been ignored for way too damn long. ..We haven’t been recognizing the toxic wounds of war and that will end today with the passage of this bill.”

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Senator Daines said, “The ‘Honoring Our PACT Act’ will ensure that the men and women who have suffered from toxic exposure while bravely defending our country receive the support they deserve. I look forward to seeing this bipartisan bill signed into law.”

Tester estimated over 66,000 Montana veterans could benefit from the bill. He also said the VA will have better care opportunities. After going to the House of Representatives, it will head to the President’s desk.

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