With Wide VSO Support, Chairman Takano’s Honoring our PACT Act Gains Critical Momentum
Comprehensive legislation honors our pact to address military toxic exposure
Jenni Geurink | 202.819.4684
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 Act. Leaders from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion (TAL), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), and Minority Veterans of America (MVA) showcased their support for the comprehensive package this week. The Honoring our PACT Act will finally address toxic exposure as a cost of war and is based off 15 proposals from Members on both sides of the aisle. See full bill text here and watch last week’s press conference here.
“When we send our servicemembers into harm’s way, we do so with a promise to care for them when they come home,” said Chairman Takano. “Every day more and more veterans speak out about their exposure to toxic substances during military service, but for too long we have tackled this topic one disability or exposure group at a time. That’s why our Honoring our PACT Act is different. Based on 15 bills from Members on both sides of the aisle, our Honoring our PACT Act makes good on our promise to care for all who have borne the battle and finally recognizes toxic exposure as a cost of war. I’m so grateful our VSO leaders are behind our bill, and I look forward to working with them to pass this critical legislation.”
What VSOs are saying:
“The number one legislative goal for the VFW is comprehensive toxic exposure reform for all veterans, in the past, present, and future,” said VFW National Commander Hal Roesch. “The Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 accomplishes that goal, and the VFW emphatically supports this bill. Toxic exposures affect veterans from every generation, and the time to act for legislation is now!”
“Our nation has a solemn duty to care for those suffering long-term, negative health effects from toxic exposures during their military service,” DAV National Commander Stephen Whitehead. “DAV supports the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act as it will address multiple generations of veterans exposed to a wide range of hazards such as Agent Orange, burn pits, radiation, PFAS water contamination, and the toxins at K2 and Fort McClellan. We applaud Chairman Takano, as well as Representatives Luria and Ruiz for their leadership in developing comprehensive toxic exposure legislation to provide health care, concession of exposure, presumptive diseases and establish a new framework for those exposed to toxins in the future.”
“Our veterans community has waited far too long for presumptive conditions to be established for diseases and disabilities that have plagued them for many years,” said TAL National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has ruled that we do not need consensus from the scientific community in order to establish that a condition is service-connected. All we need is enough evidence to give our veterans the benefit of doubt – a doctrine established by Congress -- in relating certain health conditions to specific exposures. We thank Chairman Mark Takano for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him and his colleagues in establishing more presumptive conditions for America’s veterans.”
"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."
“Military toxic exposure is a top priority for Wounded Warrior Project, and we applaud Chairman Takano’s leadership in introducing such a comprehensive piece of legislation to address this urgent issue,” said WWP Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jose Ramos. “With multiple bills introduced this year addressing the different challenges faced by veterans exposed to toxic substances, the Honoring our PACT Act brings them together like pieces of a puzzle to create a lasting solution. We thank Chairman Takano for his steadfast commitment to this issue and encourage members of the House to join him by supporting this landmark legislation. The time to act is now.”
"The Honoring our PACT Act goes a long way to keeping faith with those we sent to serve overseas following the 9/11 attacks," said IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler. "Military toxic exposures, including from burn pits, are the most widespread injury among our generation of veterans and committing to their care as we approach the 20th anniversary of this war on terrorism is a large step forward in paying the full cost of war."
“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). “This bill takes to heart what veterans and their service organizations have been asking for. We are encouraged to see provisions promoting an evidence-based approach to identifying presumptive conditions such as in the TEAM Act, conceding exposure where burn pits were used through Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act, adding Agent Orange presumptives for hypertension and MGUS, recognizing radiation exposure in the Enewetak Atoll and from the Palomares, Spain accident, creating health registries for Fort McClellan and Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), while improving studies and epidemiological reporting for all exposures. We look forward to collaborating with Congress to ensure implementation of these long-needed reforms to the presumptive process, and to ensure these new standards are applied to the provisions in the bill not yet supported by scientific evidence.”
“Veterans of all eras have been plagued by toxic exposures and too many have been unable to obtain relief for their related ailments, injuries, and diseases incurred while serving this country,” said BVA Vice President Joe McNeil. “This bipartisan legislation rights many wrongs in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ treatment of toxic exposures cases. The Blinded Veterans Association 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 who will benefit from these long overdue changes.”
“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 Operations & Policy Director Andy Blevins. “Requiring a veteran to prove that their illness is a result of their selfless service is unconscionable. The introduction of this comprehensive and bipartisan legislation is the first step towards ensuring the Department has informed and inclusive frameworks to continue supporting our nation’s most vulnerable veteran populations. We applaud Chairman Takano and his colleagues for their commitment to this cause and look forward to swift passage in the House.”
Earlier this year, Chairman Takano announced that he will prioritize toxic exposure during the 117th Congress and committed to moving comprehensive legislation forward based off 15 bills that were discussed at the Committee’s legislative hearing. As part of this effort, the Committee has worked to raise awareness of the effects of toxic exposure and has spoken to many veterans living with the effects of toxic exposure like MSgt. Brian Graves & Lt. Col. (Ret.) Nate Brauner. Last week, Chairman Takano led a press conference with Jon Stewart, John Feal, and VSO leaders to unveil the Honoring our PACT Act. All of these efforts build 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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