August 02, 2022

Hirono Votes to Pass Honoring Our PACT Act to Expand VA Health Care for Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, voted to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to expand VA health care for veterans with health conditions related to burn pit and Agent Orange exposure. Passage of the comprehensive, bipartisan legislation was delayed last week after 25 Republican Senators who had previously voted to advance the bill abruptly pulled their support, citing baseless political objections.

As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Hirono helped negotiate the bipartisan bill. Upon Senate passage, Senator Hirono released the following statement:

“Millions of servicemembers have been exposed to burn pits and other toxic materials while enlisted in our armed forces,” said Senator Hirono. “They have risked their lives in service to our country, and we have a duty to ensure they receive the proper care and support for conditions caused by these toxic exposures. The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act meets our duty to these veterans by providing access to the care they need and deserve.

“I am glad we’ve finally passed this critical bill, but it is shameful that passage was needlessly delayed by Republicans more interested in playing political games than delivering for our veterans. With the lives of toxic-exposed veterans hanging in the balance, depriving them of life-saving health care for even one additional day is completely inexcusable.

“I look forward to seeing this bill signed into law, and I will continue working to help ensure that every veteran in Hawaii and across our country has access to high-quality care through the VA.”

The legislation is named for Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard, and died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service. Specifically, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:

  • Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
  • Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
  • Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
  • Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure;
    • Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
  • Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
  • Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
    • VA claims processing;
    • VA’s workforce; and
    • VA health care facilities.

 

The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this month by a vote of 342-88 and now goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Hirono is committed to supporting our nation’s veterans. In March, Senator Hirono helped pass in the Senate bipartisan legislation to expand access to breast cancer screening and care for veterans. She also introduced the Veterans and Family Information Act which required the VA to make information more accessible for non-English language speakers, enabling veterans and their families to better understand the benefits, programs, and resources available to them. Senator Hirono also introduced the Every Veteran Counts Act directing the VA to establish and regularly update a database of veterans’ demographic data.

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