WASHINGTON (AP - MODIFIED) — The Senate has approved a sweeping expansion of health care and disability benefits for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in response to concerns about their exposure to toxic burn pits.
Passage of the bill Thursday caps years of advocacy work by veterans groups and others who liken burn pits to the Agent Orange herbicide that Vietnam-era veterans were exposed to.
The House is expected to approve the Senate measure, sending it to President Joe Biden, who has said he'd sign comprehensive legislation immediately.
The military routinely used open burn pits set ablaze with jet fuel to dispose of tires, batteries and medical waste.
“Our service members and their families give everything for our country. And as a nation we promise to care for them when they come home. At last, we are honoring that promise and paying the price we owe them for our freedoms, our values, and our safety.
Today’s Senate passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act is an enormous victory for the service members, veterans, and their families who have been fighting for years to get the health care and benefits they have earned. By establishing a presumptive service connection for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins, this legislation will finally ensure our nation’s finest will no longer be forced to jump through unnecessary hoops or carry the burden of toxic exposure alone.
I am proud that my bill, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, formed the centerpiece of this bill and I am grateful to Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Rubio, Congressman Ruiz, Chairman Tester, and Ranking Member Moran, as well as the veterans service organizations, Jon Stewart, and John Feal, and all who have fought tirelessly on behalf of those exposed to toxic burn pits.”