July 16, 2022
This week, the House of Representatives passed S. 3373, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, otherwise known as the Honoring Our PACT Act, to deliver long overdue benefits to American veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) supported the bipartisan bill, which would finally treat toxic exposure as a cost of war by addressing the full range of issues impacting toxic-exposed veterans, including access to earned benefits and healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Honoring Our PACT Act is the largest veterans’ healthcare bill passed in decades and would expand VA healthcare to more than 3.5 million veterans.
“The debt we owe to the men and women who have served in our armed forces is impossible to fully repay, but today’s action from the House of Representatives will ensure that millions of toxic-exposed veterans receive the healthcare and benefits they desperately need and deserve based upon their heroic service to the nation,” said Congressman Cleaver. “For years I have heard from countless Missouri veterans who have pleaded with Congress to ensure those who were exposed to toxic substances, such as burn pits and Agent Orange, during their military service, rightfully, receive healthcare for service-related injuries and illnesses. Today, thanks to the leadership of President Biden and Democrats in Congress, we’re finally taking necessary steps to care of those who valiantly fought for our freedoms abroad. I’m proud to have supported this historic legislation, which will undoubtedly save veterans’ lives in the years ahead.”
Although American veterans have a long history of suffering from toxic substances, the VA has not recognized the effects of exposure to these substances or provided care to those suffering from illnesses or injuries related to such exposure. The Honoring Our PACT Act would right this wrong by:
● Expanding VA healthcare eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
● Creating a streamlined framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
● Adding 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the VA’s list of service-connected presumptive illnesses, including hypertension;
● Expanding coverage for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure;
● Including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
● Strengthening federal research on toxic exposure;
● Improving the VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
● Setting the VA and veterans up for success by making critical investments in VA claims processing, recruiting and retaining the VA’s workforce, and expanding the VA’s healthcare infrastructure.
The Honoring Our PACT Act is supported by more than 40 Veterans Service Organizations, including Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, Military Officers Association of America, Minority Veterans of America, Gold Star Wives of America, Disabled American Veterans, and more.
Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus.