The Senate voted 86-11 the night of Aug. 2 to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, moving the comprehensive toxic exposure legislation to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to sign it into law in an Aug. 10 ceremony at the White House.
MOAA joined veterans groups, servicemembers and military families affected by toxic exposure, on Capitol Hill in recent days as part of a final push to secure Senate approval.
"MOAA has backed this bill throughout the legislative process, and we're pleased it has cleared these last-minute hurdles," said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). "We thank the advocates, lawmakers, and legislative staffers who've seen this bill through to the finish line. We call on President Biden to sign the legislation immediately, and we look forward to working with VA on its speedy implementation."
A July 27 cloture vote that needed 60 votes failed 55-42, despite the Senate’s passage of nearly identical legislation by an 84-14 margin about a month earlier.
The Aug. 2 bill included no changes from the July 27 vote and only a technical correction from the version that passed the House in May and the Senate in June. The final bill included the correction, which is related to a tax benefit available to some health professionals as part of the bill’s efforts to improve VA staffing; it passed the House 342-88 on July 13.
In a statement issued after the June Senate passage, Biden said the bill “makes good on our sacred obligation to care for veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors."
Ensuring veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned related to toxic exposure has been a long-term legislative priority for MOAA. Among the recent work on the topic:
- Legislative attempts at securing omnibus toxic exposure reforms were part of MOAA’s 2021 Advocacy in Action campaign.
- MOAA members and other grassroots advocates logged more than 10,000 actions – calls and/or letters to House and Senate members – via MOAA’s Legislative Action Center.
- Stories from veterans facing toxin-related illness have been shared in Military Officer and at MOAA.org.
"While the legislative hurdles have been cleared, our work on this bill is far from over," Atkins said. "We will ensure the benefits outlined in this critical legislation reach those who've earned them, and their families, and that veterans will realize these changes sooner rather than later."
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