February 22, 2022

11 VSOs Agree—It’s time to pass Chairman Takano’s Honoring our PACT Act

Comprehensive legislation to honor pact to address toxic exposures heads to House floor

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)  

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced widespread Veteran Service Organization (VSO) support for the monumental Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 or the Honoring our PACT Actwhich will come to a vote on the House floor when Congress is back in session next week. Leaders from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion (TAL), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), and Burn Pits 360 showcased their support for the comprehensive bipartisan package. The Honoring our PACT Act will finally recognize toxic exposure as a cost of war and currently has 94 cosponsors. 

 

“For too long, America’s message to toxic-exposed servicemembers and veterans has been simple – we thank you for your service, but the price tag for addressing your exposure is just too high,” said Chairman Takano. “I am so grateful that 11 VSOs are behind my Honoring our PACT Act because they know we need to recognize toxic exposure as a cost of war once and for all. We cannot accept legislative half measures that narrow benefits for some veterans and exclude others altogether. The Honoring our PACT Act has the momentum—Congress just needs to find the will to do what is right. When my bill comes up for a vote on the House floor next week, I intend to keep my promise to care for all veterans exposed to toxic substances, and I call on all of my colleagues to do the same.” 

 

What VSOs are saying: 

 

“The Honoring Our PACT Act is a comprehensive solution to improve access to VA health care and benefits for toxic exposed veterans,” said VFW National Commander Fritz Mihelcic. “This historic legislation would help millions of veterans by establishing a permanent presumptive framework to address any exposure, foreign or domestic, past, present, and future. It would provide VA health care access for all exposed veterans, create a concession of exposure for burn pits, and would create a list of presumptive conditions associated with burn pits and other exposures. This legislation would help Post 9/11 veterans, K2 veterans, atomic veterans, and Vietnam veterans, including those who served in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The VFW strongly supports the Honoring Our PACT Act and thanks Chairman Takano for introducing this bill. We look forward to its passage this Congress.” 

 

“DAV supports the Honoring our PACT Act as it will impact multiple generations of veterans exposed to a wide range of hazards,” said DAV National Commander Andrew Marshall. “We thank Chairman Takano for his continued leadership on this critical issue, and urge swift passage of this legislation that would provide health care, concession of exposure, and establish presumptive diseases. Comprehensive toxic exposure legislation is long past due, and the men and women exposed and suffering cannot afford any more delays. We must act now!”

 

“Veterans exposed to toxic burn pits have waited far too long for the presumption of service connection to be established,” said the American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard. “This is why the American Legion supports H.R. 3967 – the Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 which provides a comprehensive framework to improve the presumptive process for burn pit veterans. Urgent action is needed to ensure that veterans have access to the care they need and have earned.”

 

"Military toxic exposures, like those from burn pits, continue to be the cause of too much pain and suffering for our nation’s veterans. Comprehensive legislation like the Honoring our PACT Act is absolutely critical to keeping faith with those we sent to serve overseas following the 9/11 attacks," said IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler. “After more than 20 years of war in the post-9/11 era, veterans have waited long enough for comprehensive benefits. Many are sick, suffering, and dying. The time is now to step forward in paying the full cost of war.”

 

“Vietnam Veterans of America fully supports H.R. 3967, The Honoring Our PACT Act. This long-anticipated legislation, when passed, will finally allow for healthcare and benefits to Vietnam Veterans exposed a half century ago to Agent Orange in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia,  Guam, and American Samoa,” said Vietnam Veterans of America National President Jack McManus. “The legislation also adds to the list of Agent Orange-presumption diseases hypertension and Monoclonal Gammopathy, providing a lifeline for our Vietnam veterans still living with these diseases

 

"Thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with serious illnesses which may have been caused or were aggravated by exposure to hazardous substances during their time in service,” said PVA Executive Director Carl Blake. The PACT Act seeks to change the way Congress and VA approaches military-related exposures by creating a comprehensive plan that addresses the needs of a multigenerational veteran population who are suffering from a multitude of conditions caused by military environmental hazard exposures."

 

“Wounded Warrior Project offers our strongest support for Chairman Takano’s Honoring Our PACT Act.  This bill is the comprehensive solution that would fully address the needs of post-9/11 Veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while in service,” said WWP Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jose Ramos. “WWP believes that no Veteran who suffered burn pit exposure should ever be turned away from VA care, regardless of whether they served 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or longer.  The Honoring Our PACT Act will guarantee non-expiring access to VA health care, create a presumption that certain diseases are related to exposure, concede that exposure occurred, and finally provide post-9/11 Veterans parity with what Congress has done for previous generations, such as Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.  WWP is committed to addressing toxic wounds with the same urgency which we address the physical and invisible wounds of war and we urge every Member of the House of Representatives to support this urgently needed bill.”

 

“MOAA supports the House’s omnibus comprehensive toxic exposure reform bill, the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021,” said MOAA president and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “Our Post 9-11 veterans deserve and need a comprehensive solution to address the toxic exposures they faced in service to our country. When our servicemembers deployed, they swore to care for each other, now is the time for our nation to do the same. After two decades of war and millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances, we must ensure all those veterans have access to VA health care reflected in this bill. In addition to caring for the current generation, this comprehensive bill takes important steps to establish needed presumptions for many other generations of veterans who have been overlooked. We seek support from all members of the House.”

 

“This bill is the most inclusive legislative solution addressing military toxic exposures, regardless of when one served. VA benefits are a cost of war, and it is time for our toxic exposed veterans from all eras to be taken care of. The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) sincerely thanks Chairman Takano and every member of Congress who helped craft this legislation for their leadership and support in finally bringing recognition, justice, and relief to our veterans and survivors deserving of these long overdue changes,”stated BVA National President Joseph D. McNeil, Sr.

 

“In the last twenty years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen a 61% increase in rates of cancers that research has shown are tied to toxic exposure. Despite this harrowing statistic, the Department has refused to acknowledge the likely connection with military service, denying nearly 75% of claims on arbitrary logic,” said MVA Executive Director Lindsay Church. “Requiring a veteran to prove that their illness is a result of their selfless service is unconscionable. It is long past time to pass comprehensive legislation that will support the needs of those living with the effects of toxic exposure. We applaud Chairman Takano and his colleagues for their commitment to this cause and look forward to swift passage in the House.”

 

“Our nation’s Veterans and survivors have been left behind without the support of a grateful nation. They have had to fight for that support everyday of their lives while dealing with illness or death of a loved one,” said Burn Pits 360 Executive Director Rosie Torres. “We should honor these as injuries with compassionate common sense and stop turning a blind eye. The PACT is an invitation for Congress and the President to begin the healing process for those impacted by this instrumentality of war. 

 

Background:

 

Last year, Chairman Takano introduced the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 or Honoring our PACT Act to finally address toxic exposure as a cost of war once and for all. This critical bipartisan legislation has the support of 11 Veterans Service Organizations, advocates Jon Stewart and John Feal, and 94 cosponsors. This legislation builds off the monumental passage of Chairman Takano’s Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act last Congress that finally granted benefits to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service off the coast of Vietnam.

 

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