After six days of round-the-clock advocacy, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement on Senate passage of the PACT Act:
“At last, today, we are honoring the service members and their families who have given everything for our country. Finally, we have come together to deliver on the promise we owe them for our freedoms, our values, and our safety. After the long and winding road we took to get to final passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, we owe this success to the veterans advocates – Burn Pits 360 and all of the veterans service organizations – who fought day and night to change the hearts of senators and get this bill passed. I am honored to have worked beside them in this fight, and I urge President Biden to sign this bill into law swiftly!”
Gillibrand’s bill, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, formed the cornerstone of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. She first introduced her bill in September 2020, alongside a bicameral group that included Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA), comedian Jon Stewart, activist John Feal, and a strong coalition of veterans service organizations. The group introduced an updated, bipartisan version in the spring of 2021 together with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
In March 2022, the House of Representatives passed the Honoring Our PACT Act, an effort led by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano and Gillibrand’s House co-lead, Congressman Raul Ruiz. The War Fighters bill was included in the Honoring Our PACT Act as the centerpiece of the presumptive coverage section. Also in March, Gillibrand held a hearing in her role as chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee to examine the health effects of burn pits. Later that month, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined the coalition to announce his support for the bill and pledged to give it a vote in the Senate.
In May 2022, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester and Ranking Member Jerry Moran announced a bipartisan deal on toxic exposure legislation. Their package, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, is an amended version of the House-passed Honoring Our PACT Act and retains Gillibrand’s bill as the cornerstone of the presumptive care section.