Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is applauding the House passage of the bipartisan Honoring Our PACT Act, which passed by a vote of 256-174. The Honoring Our PACT Act includes provisions from Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, which would streamline the process for veterans to obtain VA benefits for illnesses due to exposure to burn pits and other toxic exposures. Approximately 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits that spewed toxic fumes and carcinogens into the air.
Now, Gillibrand is urging the Senate to swiftly take up and pass her legislation.
“When our country sent our brave service members on tours of duty, we didn’t just expose them to danger from the enemy, but also from our own toxic burn pits. Now, many are sick and dying of respiratory diseases and cancers – and they need access to the health care they have more than earned. Today, the House has taken the first step by passing the Honoring Our PACT Act, which would provide comprehensive toxic exposure coverage to our veterans,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I thank Veterans’ Affairs Chair Congressman Takano for his leadership. Now, I will be working my hardest to ensure the Senate passes my bill, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act. I am grateful to Senator Rubio, Congressman Ruiz and Congressman Fitzpatrick for their partnership on that bill, and will continue to work with them until we ensure that the VA cannot delay or deny care to suffering veterans for one more day.”
The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act would remove the “burden of proof” from the veteran to provide enough evidence to establish a direct service connection between their health condition and exposure. Rather, the veteran would only need to submit documentation that they received a campaign medal associated with the Global War on Terror or the Gulf War and they suffer from a qualifying health condition. Campaign medals are awarded to members of the armed forces who deploy for military operations in a designated combat zone or geographical theater.
Presumptive conditions include a wide range of cancers and respiratory illnesses, including: asthma that was diagnosed after service, head cancer of any type, neck cancer of any type, respiratory cancer of any type, gastrointestinal cancer of any type, reproductive cancer of any type, lymphoma cancer of any type, lymphomatic cancer of any type, kidney cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, emphysema, granulomatous disease, interstitial lung disease, pleuritis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis.