U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, joined a bipartisan majority of the House Thursday to pass a bill that he co-sponsored: the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act.
The bill is designed to treat toxic exposure as a cost of war, by addressing the full range of issues that impact veterans exposed to toxins. That includes access to earned benefits and healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“When our service members embark on their missions to protect the United States and its interests around the globe, we make a promise that we would take care of them when they came home,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “But that promise has not been kept for some veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and substances in the course of their duties.
“The bipartisan Honoring Our PACT Act will ensure we keep our promise to veterans who were exposed to burn pits during their service by giving them access to the care and benefits they’ve earned,” the congressman said. “We owe it to toxic-exposed veterans to provide the care and benefits they’ve earned.”
As a veteran, Rep. Carbajal said he was proud to support the legislation.
This bill is a comprehensive legislation package that will open up healthcare to more than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances. The bill creates presumptions for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers, which shifts the burden of proof off of the 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, according to a news release.
The bipartisan legislation also is designed to streamline the VA’s presumption decision-making process. This will keep Congress from having to intervene and will prevent veterans from waiting decades to receive help, according to Rep. Carbajal’s office.
Leaders from 11 veterans organizations expressed support for the bipartisan bill.