The Senate will vote on a bill this week to expand veterans' healthcare and benefits for those exposed to toxic chemicals.
"It's a huge deal, particularly for … the post-9/11 wounded, ill and injured," Wounded Warrior Project's Aleks Morosky told The Hill. "Every generation of veterans unfortunately has had some kind of exposure issue. There has not yet been any sort of comprehensive legislation passed to address that for the post-9/11 generation."
Widespread support has been shown already for the assistance. The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act passed the House 256-174, while the Senate has modified it slightly and passed a procedural vote 86-12 last week, according to The Hill.
The Senate bill will need to be approved in the House again after the changes.
There are 23 conditions related to burn pit and toxic exposures that will be added to the Veterans Affairs list so that veterans will no longer bear the burden of having to prove they are connected to their time in the military in order to receive disability payments.
The bill also sets the table for future presumption conditions, including having the public weigh in.
Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson served in Iraq and Kosovo and suffered from Stage 4 lung cancer his oncologist said only could have been caused by prolonged toxic exposure, according to The Hill.
Robinson could not get VA care and benefits because he could not prove his cancer was a result of his service. This new legislation is named in his honor after he died in 2020.
"Needless to say, Heath spent his final three years battling the war that followed him home," Robinson's mother-in-law Susan Zeier told reporters this week. "He told us that he is a soldier and soldiers don't know how to give up."
Burn pits, where large piles of trash and waste were incinerated by the military, have been linked to asthma, sinusitis, and rare forms of cancers – which often can take years to develop.
President Joe Biden himself has connected his son Beau's death from brain cancer to a result of prolonged toxic exposure from burn pits.
"I had five bone marrow biopsies, eight spinal taps, 10 transfusions ... three years of multiple types of chemo," veteran Andrew Myatt told The Hill, noting he has had good healthcare insurance from his job and has not had to rely on the VA.
"The amount of stuff they put you through to try to combat this is not cheap in any way shape or form. If I didn't have good healthcare and survived, I would be in debt for the rest of my life."
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