(U.S. Senate) – The Senate today passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022—bipartisan legislation championed by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to deliver all eras of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history.
The Senators worked for months with colleagues from both chambers, VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the Biden Administration, and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to deliver the historic bill. The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives where it must pass before heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“The Senate took a historic step today to deliver all eras of veterans their earned support through passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act,” said Chairman Tester. “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. This bill is the legislation we envisioned when we set out to right the wrongs to our toxic-exposed veterans, and I’m grateful to Ranking Member Jerry Moran, our committee colleagues, Veterans Service Organizations, veterans’ advocates, and the Biden Administration for making this possible. Our men and women in uniform held up their end of the bargain, and I’m proud we’re holding up ours.”
“Veterans suffering from toxic exposure have been relying on a broken system cobbled together through decades of patchwork fixes that often leaves them without health care or benefits,” said Ranking Member 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. 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. Passing bipartisan toxic exposure legislation has been a priority for Chairman Tester and me, and I appreciate his leadership on this issue. Thank you to Heath Robinson’s family and all the veterans and advocates for their input and commitment to get this long-overdue bill passed through the Senate. I urge the House to quickly pass the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”
Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service. Among its many priorities, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:
- Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes 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:
- VA claims processing;
- VA’s workforce;
- VA health care facilities.
As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester and Moran have long been dedicated to identifying a path forward for unaddressed toxic exposure issues alongside Veterans Service Organizations—remaining committed to delivering comprehensive relief to all generations of toxic-exposed veterans. In May, the Senators announced a bipartisan agreement on the comprehensive bill and expressed urgency that a Senate floor vote take place swiftly.
Bill text of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 can be found HERE.