WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. This legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) – the ranking member and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This legislation overwhelmingly passed the Senate with a vote of 84-14. It now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives and the President’s desk for signature.
“As a nation, we recognize the physical, obvious wounds of war,” said Sen. 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. 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 Sen. Tester and me, and I appreciate his leadership on this issue,” continued Sen. Moran. “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.”
Click HERE to Watch Sen. Moran’s Full Remarks on the U.S. Senate Floor
“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 Sen. 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.”
The SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act will deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history. For more than a year, Sens. Moran and Tester led negotiations between Democrats, Republicans, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, Ranking Member Mike Bost, the Biden Administration, Veterans Service Organizations and advocates.
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;
- 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 for toxic-exposed veterans and training for VA health care and benefits professionals; and
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
- VA claims processing;
- VA’s workforce; and
- VA health care facilities.
As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sens. Moran and Tester 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.
Veteran Leaders Across Kansas:
“On Behalf of the State of Kansas Veterans of foreign Wars, VFW and its 16,000 plus members and especially those veterans and their families that will be drastically affected by the PACT Act we thank and salute you for your efforts to get this bill to the floor of the United States Senate to be voted on,” said Lee Hursey, commander for the State of Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Your desire to get the best possible outcome for those veterans exposed to Toxic substances that could endanger their health has been noted and appreciated. Kansas VFW realizes the work that you do so tirelessly for veterans and all citizens of the United States and wants you to know that you are truly appreciated.”
“The Kansas Department of The American Legion wholeheartedly endorses and supports the proposed legislation that Sen. Moran and Tester have worked in a bipartisan fashion with the VA, other VSOs, and advocates to craft the SFC Heath Robinson Act,” said Jeremy Ehart, Department Commander of the Department of Kansas The American Legion.
“I greatly appreciate the extensive research and work that has been done by Senators Moran and Tester to effect legislation that rightfully would guarantee veterans who have been exposed to toxic environments and are suffering respiratory conditions, cancer and other associated illnesses permanent access to VA health care,” said William Turner, director of Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office and former Deputy Commanding General of Support for Fort Riley’s First Infantry Division. “Our Veterans have served in multiple locations where they have been exposed to a number of toxins that have resulted in them developing serious illnesses and they often struggle to gain access to health care and benefits that can help alleviate some of the pain and suffering they are experiencing. It is absolutely imperative that we enact the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022, as amended, to both guarantee exposed Veterans the permanent access to VA health care and also continue to establish a list of conditions that are presumed linkages to the toxic exposures thus enabling Veterans to receive their full benefits.”
“On behalf of the DAV Department of Kansas and our members, we fully support the Honoring Our PACT Act,” said Eric Owens, Disabled American Veterans Department of Kansas Adjutant. “It will provide healthcare and benefits to thousands of Kansas veterans that have been exposed to Agent Orange, radiation, contaminated water, burn pits and other environmental hazards. Many of our members are suffering from illnesses caused by these exposures and in many cases, they do not have access to VA health care and benefits. We are extremely grateful for Senator Moran’s leadership, bipartisanship and commitment to the men and women who have served this nation. The Honoring Our PACT Act will have a lasting positive impact on toxic exposed veterans, their families, and survivors. Again, we thank Senator Moran for his dedication to finding a solution to the puzzle of exposure legislation.”
“Our veterans have fought for this country. By no means should they have to fight the bureaucracy to get the necessary medical care they deserve,” said Lee Tafanelli, Major General (Ret.). “This landmark legislation fulfills the basic and sacred promise that we make to our veterans when we send them off to war. The promise that we will provide them the necessary VA medical care and disability benefits when they return must be honored. The legislation that you championed will have a great impact in the lives of our veterans long after their service. The knowledge that the obstacles formerly in their way have now been streamlined will provide peace of mind as our veterans move on with their lives. Access to the necessary healthcare for illnesses that have occurred as a result of their exposure to toxins during their deployment is an absolute necessity.”
“On behalf of all my brothers and sisters who wore the uniform of the United States to support and defend our Constitution, I strongly support the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring PACT Act of 2022,” said David T. Dennis, Colonel, United States Air Force (Ret.) and Sedgwick County Commissioner. “As a member of the Sedgwick County Board of Health, and the Chairman of the Sedgwick County Commission, it is our job to provide health services to those in need. As a retired Air Force Colonel, it is my job to use my position to advocate for all active duty and military veterans. I sincerely appreciate your dedicated support for this legislation and for your steadfast support for our nation’s veterans.”
“As a combat veteran and military leader, I saw firsthand the effects of burn pits and its subsequent toxic exposure impacts on the lives of my soldiers,” said Dr. Arthur DeGroat, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret)., U.S. Army, Kansas Governor’s Military Council. “I have also witnessed many technical and manufacturing (packaging) innovations that would reduce the logistical waste that results in the primitive use of fire to burn refuse at great risk to soldiers, civilians, host nationals and the physical environment. This primitive martial practice must be stopped—and I feel your legislation will not only care for those effected—but improve the overall nature of combat deployments. Moreover, advances in military logistics will now have the impetus to innovate to reduce the waste footprint of harmful byproducts of wartime materials. I commend your expert leadership in this very important policy matter as both a veteran and citizen leader.”
“As a veteran myself, I have in the past given little thought to the hazards other than those presented by the enemy or those who would do us harm and what I might characterize as the standard health and safety measures we have practiced for decades,” said General Mike Dodson (Ret.) former commander of Fort Riley First Infantry Division and Kansas State Representative. “The first ‘non-standard hazard’ I encountered was ‘Agent Orange.’ The dangers were not known to us during our service in Vietnam, but certainly became an issue some years later. Likewise, in Desert Storm, while we were aware of some of the possible hazards (such as chemicals), the locations were largely unknow. The dangers presented by oil fires and burn pits were certainly suspected, but not easy to avoid. Servicemen and women have suffered various ailments and have long sought to have these hazards recognized by the VA as being causal factors. I applaud your actions and that of your Senate colleagues. This legislation will give hope to those veterans who are searching for answers to their suffering. It will also fulfill our commitment to them for the sacrifices they have made in the service of our country.”
“On behalf of Ransom VFW Post 7972, Ransom, Kansas, and the millions of United States Veterans out there, I wish to sincerely thank you for bringing the PACT ACT to the floor of the Senate for a vote,” said Herbert Schwartzkopf, Kansas VFW Adjutant/Quartermaster. “I know you will eventually do as you originally planned to get dates and dollars implemented into this bill so it will benefit not only the veterans and their families affected, but the entire nation. The work that you do so tirelessly for veterans and all citizens of the United States is totally appreciated and will not be forgotten.”
"As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I know so many of my fellow veterans who are suffering from the negative effects of toxic exposure during their service in-theater,” said Pat Proctor, Colonel (Ret.) U.S. Army and Kansas State Representative. “And there is no telling how many of us will be impacted as we get older. I am so incredibly grateful to Senator Moran for leading this effort, standing with those of us who served, and seeing that our nation meets its obligation to those who risked their lives in its defense."
“Senator Moran and Senator Tester have my thanks and that of Friends In Service of Heroes for not forgetting our veterans,” said Paul Chapa, founder of Friends in Service of Heroes. “This is indeed a long time in the making and only pray it will save the lives of those that have suffered from the various toxic exposure. Thank you for letting them all know, that service mattered and still matters today.”
“It took too long for the VA provide relief for those exposed to Agent Orange,” said Timothy Marlar, Colonel (Ret), from Newton. “We cannot pass on the opportunity pass the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 and recognize the hazards of the exposure of military personnel to toxic substances. Our military personnel served overseas or stationed at home has been an ongoing issue. These exposures have resulted in conditions and illnesses among veterans which can have far reaching effects on health and quality of life of these heroes. I believe the PACT Act is move in the right direction towards honoring the service of our service members and providing medical treatment and disability compensation they have earned.”
“I unequivocally support the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Pact Act of 2022,” said John C. Buckley, Colonel, (Ret.) U.S. Army from Andover. “During my 33 years of military service, I sometimes had to order my troops to go into harm’s way. During training, I sometimes expected them to do very dangerous things. But before I ordered them to do those things, I assessed the risk and instituted the best mitigating actions which would ensure their safety and survival. Reinforcing my actions was my firm belief that we would take care of them, or their family, if they suffered an injury or fatality during any of these missions. ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.’ Our Soldiers were put into dangerous situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And many who suffered from their wounds or made the ultimate sacrifice have been cared for by our nation. Unfortunately, many too have been overlooked and ignored. Especially those who are suffering injuries after having recurring and prolonged exposure to toxic fumes, burn pits and other environmental hazards. Our country has turned their back on these heroes. These overlooked men and women are clearly suffering from the toll of armed conflict. I commend you for your interest in our veteran community. And I sincerely applaud the bipartisan effort and support to deliver the care to our veterans who sacrificed everything to ensure our country sustained its freedom and liberty. My Soldiers, our nation’s treasure, followed my difficult orders and directions because they trusted me, and they trusted that their nation would take care of them or their families if our mission went awry. Your Act will re-establish this trust that our service men and women, and their families have in our nation’s leaders, that they will honor the pact.”
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