‘Total Team Effort’: Toxic Exposure Reform Bill Passes Senate, Heads Back to House

‘Total Team Effort’: Toxic Exposure Reform Bill Passes Senate, Heads Back to House
Marines with 1st Marine Logistics Group burn black water before filling the pit with sand at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, in 2008. (Photo by Sgt. Jason W. Fudge/Marine Corps)

The Senate voted 84-14 on June 16 to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, sending the bill back to the House for consideration.


The House previously passed a version of the omnibus toxic exposure reform legislation 256-174. While the bill is expected to clear the chamber again, MOAA is asking its members and others to reach out to their representatives and secure their support for expanding VA care to more than 3.5 million veterans, adding 23 ailments to the list of those connected to toxic exposure, funding dozens of new VA facilities in 19 states, and improving toxic exposure-related screening, research, and claims processing.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your House Member to Vote for the Honoring Our PACT Act | Call Your House Member Today]


“This was a total team effort, from the legislative staffs in both chambers to the dozens of advocacy groups on board to the grassroots work put in by thousands of MOAA members,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO. “Everyone played a role in this success, but we’re not done yet – MOAA and our partners will see this through not just the president’s signature, but through the implementation process so critical to ensure the earned benefits of millions of veterans.”


MOAA has supported multiple attempts at much-needed comprehensive toxic exposure reform, with efforts picking up in recent years. A coalition formed behind the current legislation, to include veterans groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Burn Pits 360, AMVETS, Reserve Organization of America, and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; veterans advocate Jon Stewart; and members of Congress from both parties, including Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), the committee’s ranking member.


“There’s absolutely no reason, none, this bill should be a Republican bill or a Democrat bill,” Moran said at a June 7 press event held prior to the Senate’s initial cloture vote.


[TOXIC LEGACY: They Served With Honor … Then Their Country Let Them Down]


"I urge the House to swiftly pass this bill so I can sign it into law right away," President Joe Biden said in a June 16 White House statement.


VA Secretary Denis McDonough said his department supports “the expansion of access to VA health care in the PACT Act and will work to ensure that the expansion of eligibility for health care does not result in the delay or disruption of care for those Veterans already receiving health care from VA.”


Senate changes to the initial House bill did not increase the overall cost of the legislation, which had raised concern from some lawmakers. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the House-passed version would cost $322 billion, per a Military Times report -- $43 billion more than the CBO score for the Senate version. Savings would come from delays to some benefit implementation and the use of community care programs to cover some testing and examination requirements, according to the report.


“This bill’s Senate passage shows what the uniformed services community can accomplish when it comes together,” said Cory Titus, MOAA’s director of government relations for veteran benefits and Guard/Reserve affairs. “Millions of veterans will benefit from this bill, including some who have waited more than half a century for the benefits they earned and the care they require. It’s a long-overdue fix, but we are grateful to the lawmakers who’ve helped make it happen.”


Ask your House member to ensure this legislation crosses the finish line, by sending a letter or making a phone call today.


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About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley