The Long-Awaited Passing of the PACT Act
The PACT Act aims to aid veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits and injuries from other toxins while in service by improving the Veterans Affairs health care and increasing their benefits (Benjamin Faust/ Unsplash).
The Senate finally passed the PACT Act after much debate and controversy in the previous weeks leading up to the Senate revote on August 2, 2022. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act will improve the Veterans Affairs health care and will increase their benefits. The bill hopes to aid the veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits and injuries from other toxins while in service. Passing the bill was not an easy step for veterans; from the protests outside the Capitol to the rising political pressure and criticism of the GOP Senate, why did the PACT Act pass with such conflict?
What will the PACT Act do to help our Veterans?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PACT Act is promising to expand the eligibility for more veterans that have been exposed to toxic exposure. As such, they’re opening up the eligibility for veterans in the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War, and the Vietnam War. For those veterans, the PACT Act is opening up the circumstantial conditions of toxic exposure, specifically burn pits. With exposures like Agent Orange and radioactive exposure, the PACT Act will include more locations in which exposures will be accounted for. More applicable locations include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, and many more. By opening up eligibility for veterans, the PACT Act makes health care more accessible to honorable Veterans. Additionally, it also allows veterans to seek medical help for these long term injuries that they’ve developed, like cancers and terminal diseases, without having to worry about medical expenses and proof of injury.
Why didn’t the PACT Act pass easily?
Originally, the PACT Act was passed in early June but after a revision was made by the House of Representatives, the GOP Senate reduced its passing votes down by 26 which ultimately blocked the bill from being passed. Many protested on the streets and demanded the PACT Act to be passed. Some greatly criticized Republican lawmakers, saying that the bill was only delayed by GOP Senators due to the climate bill that passed just recently. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey spoke on the accusations and commented that “it had nothing to do” with the recent climate bill.
The real concern was said to be the $400 million budget for the PACT Act. Many Republican lawmakers shared that they were hesitant to approve a $400 million budget because they were more in favor of an alternative funding plan instead of the proposed mandatory funding that was planned on the bill. Toomey further went on to comment that they were afraid that the mandatory funding would cause “shuffling money inside the budget to use for unrelated purposes”. Although all 11 opposing votes were made by Republican Senators, many other Senators have expressed their support for the veteran care, but not the financial aspect of the bill and the manner in which the funding was set up. After much protest and dissent, the Senate did a revote and the final vote was 86-11, passing the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act.
President Biden has called this bill a “sacred obligation” to veterans. The fight for increased care for veterans has been lasting for over 13 years. Overall, the PACT Act is seen to be a major step towards providing accessible healthcare to veterans all over the country. The bill will be set into effect immediately.
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