ICYMI: House Passes Bill Expanding Veteran Health Benefits for Burn Pit Exposure

Washington, DC – Earlier this week, the U.S. House passed S. 3373, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, by a vote of 342-88. The PACT Act would provide comprehensive reforms to connect veterans who were exposed to burn pits or other dangerous toxins in service to our country with health care and benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) released the following statement after supporting the legislation:

“For generations, Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has stood by its promise to provide health care and benefits to our nation’s veterans. In the more than 20 years since September 11th, more than 3.5 million veterans were potentially exposed to burn pits, but approximately 70% of burn pit claims were denied by the VA. Congress has deliberated this issue thoroughly and with the assistance of veteran service organizations who represent the countless veterans who have served our nation with dignity, Congress is one step closer to passing legislation that seeks to provide adequate care for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits,” said Congressman Lucas

Lucas continued, “The previous House-passed version of the PACT Act, H.R. 3967, failed to address the impact of improving services for toxic-exposed veterans and stretched the VA beyond its operational capacity, essentially providing no guarantee that veterans would be able to access benefits. There were also concerns regarding the bill’s fiscal sustainability towards treating veterans. The Senate version, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, codifies the scientific framework that the VA is already using to provide benefits to toxic-exposed veterans, better reflecting current practices and includes major medical facility lease authorizations and other changes to ensure the VA can improve services to veterans without compromising their care and benefits. I look forward to President Biden signing this important piece of legislation into law and continuing to honor the promises our nation made to the men and women of our Armed Forces.”

According to the VA, in the 20 years since September 11th, 2001, 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to toxins while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. 

“Our military personnel have been exposed to toxic substances in all of our wars. S 3373 will provide the much-needed services that our active-duty military and veterans need.  We are proud to have Congressman Lucas as a proactive advocate for Oklahoma’s Veterans and our military. We applaud his support of S. 3373,” said Pete Peterson, Chairman of the Oklahoma Veterans Council

For a section-by-section summary of the PACT Act, click here.


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