Congressman Barry Moore (R-AL02) issued a statement after voting for the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. The PACT Act connects veterans who were exposed to burn pits or other dangerous toxins in service to the United States with healthcare and benefits.
“I am delighted to see Congressional leaders reach agreement on a bill that significantly builds on the work the [Veterans Administration (VA)] is already doing to provide benefits to toxic-exposed veterans in a more responsible manner than previously considered legislation,” said Moore. “I understand the necessity of delivering on our responsibility to honor the sacrifices of our service members and care for them when they return home, and this bill helps us fulfill that responsibility. I thank my colleagues on the House Veterans Affairs Committee for their hard work on this legislation.”
The PACT Act is sponsored by Rep. Mark Takano (D-California).
“For too long, Congress and [the] VA have been slow to act on toxic exposure — but today, the House took a bipartisan vote to change that and finally make good on our promise to toxic-exposed veterans by passing my Honoring our PACT Act,” said Rep. Takano. “After years of diligent input from toxic-exposed veterans, my colleagues, our staff, [the] VA and VSOs, we passed the most comprehensive legislation to date to treat toxic exposure as a cost of war and ensure that all toxic-exposed veterans can access the care and benefits they’ve earned. This fight is not over, but I will not rest until our veterans have a guarantee in statute that their government will take care of them when they come home — no matter the cost. I’m so grateful for the strong support from Speaker Pelosi, President Biden and our dedicated VSOs and advocates, and I look forward to working with Senator Tester to pass truly comprehensive legislation through the Senate and send it to the President’s desk. Toxic-exposed veterans do not have time to wait.”
In June, Moore opposed an earlier version of the PACT Act before significant changes were made in the Senate.
Moore’s office said that this updated version supported by Moore adjusts costs to ensure that taxpayer money is not used irresponsibly and codifies the scientific framework already used by the VA to provide benefits to toxic-exposed veterans. It will authorize 31 new major medical leases to help ensure that veterans across the country can get the care they need in a timely manner.
The bipartisan 2022 PACT Act builds on the comprehensive framework the VA has been piloting for the past year that streamlines benefits for future generations of veterans and survivors by establishing presumptions of service connection. It permits the VA to immediately provide presumptive benefits to survivors and those veterans who are terminally ill, homeless, over the age of 85, experiencing extreme financial hardship or able to show another emergent need. It also provides a phased-in approach to awarding benefits under a presumption of service connection related to toxic exposure and requires the VA to partner with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to conduct toxic exposure studies with enhanced reporting requirements.
The legislation requires the VA to conduct outreach to any veteran who had previously filed a claim for benefits related to toxic exposure and were denied, ensuring they are aware of the opportunity to refile. It also allows the Secretary to remove a presumptive disability benefit if further research finds there is no scientific link. The act incorporates improved and enhanced toxic exposure screening for veterans who use the VA's care and improves the VA’s toxic exposure questionnaire. The bill also expands the VA’s authority to partner with DOD, academic affiliates and others to share space and improve services for veterans, service members, and military families, and it improves the VA’s ability to recruit and retain the VA health care, benefits, and administrative staff to ensure that the VA has the capacity to expand care and benefits to toxic-exposed veterans without disrupting services or causing longer wait times for care and compensation.
Moore is a veteran himself and a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.
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