Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021, followed a day later by the introduction of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021 by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).
Both omnibus bills reflect the work of MOAA, notably our grassroots outreach, as well as efforts from other veterans service organizations (VSOs). The legislation includes both bills supported by MOAA’s Advocacy in Action campaign, along with many other MOAA-backed positions.
Both omnibus bills include:
- The Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act (S. 927 and H.R. 2127)
- The Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act (S. 437 and H.R. 2436)
- The addition of Agent Orange presumptives for hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, better known as MGUS (S. 810 and H.R. 1972)
- The recognition of radiation exposure in the Enewetak Atoll and from the 1966 accident in Palomares, Spain (S. 565, H.R. 1585, and H.R. 2580)
- Improvements to studies and epidemiological reporting for all exposures
These core consistencies bode well for MOAA’s reform requests. Having both versions include these components mean they are highly likely to stay in the final bill. However, there are differences to be resolved:
- The House version adds more presumptives, specifically cancers that the Senate version has not included. We expect this will be a key area of negotiation in the coming months.
- The House version creates health registries for Fort McClellan, Ala., and for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – MOAA supports the creation of these registries.
- The House version establishes independent scientific review board overseen by the VA, whereas the Senate continues to use the time-tested National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to review evidence. MOAA believes NASEM should be continued to be used for evaluating toxic exposure conditions.
- The House version recognizes burn pit use in Yemen, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines whereas the Senate does not. We would encourage Senate to add these locations.
Along with our existing Advocacy in Action bills, MOAA supports both chambers’ omnibus packages. Each bill delivered on our core asks, and that is certainly due to your efforts during Advocacy in Action and prior work on this issue by MOAA. Comprehensive change would not have been on the horizon without the entire community behind it.
MOAA has reviewed both bills, and while the each have areas we believe could be improved before sending to the president, each offer a dramatic step forward in getting these veterans and their families the benefits they deserve.
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Even if you’ve already reached out to your lawmakers regarding MOAA-supported toxic exposure reform legislation, don’t hesitate to reach out again – follow up with staffers or lawmakers and let them know you support their chamber’s omnibus measure. With momentum building in both the House and Senate, now is the time to continue to make your voice heard.
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