U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, this week applauded the Senate’s passage of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which sends the veterans’ health benefit bill to the desk of President Joe Biden to become law.
The comprehensive veterans’ benefits legislation will open up healthcare benefits to more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service. The bill, which passed Tuesday in the Senate, also considers exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards to be a cost of war.
This legislation addresses issues impacting toxic-exposed veterans, including access to earned benefits and healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Rep. Carbajal’s office.
“I am glad to see that the 25 Senate Republicans who held up this bill, despite supporting it just a few weeks ago, have stopped playing games with our veterans’ health care and let this bill get to the president’s desk,” Rep. Carbajal said. “When our service members embark on their missions to protect the United States, we make a promise that we will take care of them when they come home. But that promise has not been kept for some veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and substances in the course of their duties.
“We owe it to toxic-exposed veterans to provide the care and benefits they’ve earned. As a veteran myself, I am proud to have co-sponsored this comprehensive legislation to finally recognize military toxic exposure as a cost of war and ensure we keep our promise to our veterans,” said the congressman.
Regarding burn pits and airborne hazards, Honoring Our PACT Act creates presumptions for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers, shifting the burden of proof off our veterans. If a veteran served in a particular theater at a particular time, they will be presumed to be exposed to toxic substances and therefore potentially eligible for healthcare and benefits.
The bipartisan legislation is also designed to streamline Veteran Affairs’ presumption decision-making process, so that Congress does not have to keep intervening and veterans don’t have to wait decades for help, according to Rep. Carbajal’s office.
For more information, see veterans.house.gov/imo/media/doc/honoring_our_pact_act_one_pager1.pdf.