Legislation vital to the health of 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans from all generations of service has been held up long enough. The longer we wait, the more veterans we lose – we witnessed this with Agent Orange allowing a generation of veterans pass without the requisite healthcare our nation promised these veterans.
With the backing of dozens of VSO organizations like MOAA and the support of many lawmakers from both parties, the Honoring Our PACT Act has unexpectedly stalled in the Senate, just weeks after a large majority of the same body approved the critical and life-saving legislation.
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A cloture vote to introduce the PACT Act for Senate debate failed Wednesday, 55-42. Sixty votes were needed to advance the legislation and trigger a vote by the Senate.
The vote likely surprised anyone who has been following this legislation. In June, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of it (84-14), but a procedural glitch required the legislation to go back to the House, where it was quickly approved, and then back to the Senate.
But lingering funding concerns for the bill have led 25 Republican Senators to no longer support it. The central issue that caused so many Senators to change their positions was a budgetary fight about whether to categorize the funding as mandatory or discretionary spending. Sen. Pat Toomey, (R-Pa.), is seeking an amendment that would cap mandatory funding for toxic exposure. His concern led to other lawmakers dropping their support. But Toomey’s amendment would put significant restrictions on VA spending and greatly impact care for our toxic-exposed veterans.
Mandatory versus discretionary spending shouldn’t be the issue – as a nation we promised these veterans we would we care for them beyond their service. This is a violation of a contract our nation made to those veterans who fulfilled their contract to protect and defend our freedoms. When less than 1 percent of our nation makes this commitment to protect and defend our freedoms, this is more than a disappointment, it is an outright scar on our national integrity and honor.
MOAA’s stance is to support passage of the PACT Act now. Lives are at stake, and we must support our veterans suffering today from exposure to harmful toxins in a combat zone our nation asked them to serve. Funding details can be ironed out after the measure is approved.
Constituent outreach will send a strong message to your senators that the time for debate on toxic exposures is over. Veterans need action, and we need your help to get this bill over the finish line.
Thousands of you already have written and called your legislators to express your support of this long-sought legislation. I want to offer my personal thanks for fighting alongside MOAA. But our work isn’t done – whether you’ve taken action in the past or you are new to the issue, we need everyone to take action today and tell your Senator we must get this passed as soon as possible.
From burn pits to Agent Orange to chemicals found on domestic bases, toxic exposure touches so many members of the military community. Your advocacy can make a difference, but further delays could mean disaster for this comprehensive package of benefits and expanded VA services. Please act today, veterans should not suffer while politicians in Washington, D.C. fight over the accounting of funding. Please act today.
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