U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is celebrating the passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, which will deliver comprehensive benefits to all generations of veterans who have suffered due to toxic exposure, for the first time in our nation’s history. The legislation is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a Central Ohio veteran who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and passed away in 2020 from cancer as a result of toxic exposure during his military service. Brown recently joined SFC Robinson’s family to urge his Senate colleagues to keep their promise to our veterans and pass the PACT Act.
In March, Brown welcomed Heath’s widow Danielle Robinson to Washington D.C. for President Biden’s first State of the Union Address. Robinson was invited to be the guest of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Now Heath’s bill heads back to the House before being sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“Providing health care and benefits for veterans who suffer from toxic exposure is a cost of going to war. If you were exposed to toxins while serving our country, you deserve the benefits you earned, period. No exceptions,” said Brown. “Today, the Senate finally recognized that and soon it will be the law of the land.”
“The Pact Act is a pivotal piece of legislation, which will take care of multiple generations of Veterans who have been affected by toxic exposures due to their service. My husband's memory will live on through all those Veterans who will be cared for as a result of this bill. There have been so many who have fought so long and hard over the last decade for these toxic exposed Veterans and finally, all their voices have been heard. I hope many of the families who have lost loved ones will feel some peace knowing their loved ones helped to get this bill passed as well. They will all be remembered and always honored. SFC Heath Robinson, you may not have been able to tell your story for long, but your story was surely heard. You are going to make an impact on so many Veterans. Forever a hero,” said Danielle Robinson.
Brown has been a leading voice in advocating for the passage of this legislation. In May, he hosted a press conference call to advocate for this legislation. Also, during a March Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Brown pressed Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough on how the VA can better deliver healthcare to veterans exposed to burn pits and concerns about the growing backlog of veterans’ disability claims.
The PACT Act will:
- Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, and 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 to process;
- VA’s workforce; and
- VA health care facilities.
Statement by President Joe Biden on Bipartisan Senate Passage of the PACT Act
June 16, 2022
"As part of the Unity Agenda that I laid out in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to make sure that veterans and their families and caregivers impacted by toxic exposures finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they earned and deserve. Today, the United States Senate answered that call by overwhelmingly passing the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022—the largest single bill in American history to address our service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances.
"This bill will provide expanded access to health care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by certain toxic exposures, whether in the jungles of Vietnam or the mountains of Afghanistan. It will also let the Department of Veterans Affairs move more quickly and comprehensively in the future to determine if illnesses are related to military service, and it will offer critical support to survivors who were harmed by exposures, including from water contamination at Camp LeJeune. Importantly, the bill includes the tools and resources to ensure that the VA can effectively implement it.
"Above all, this legislation makes good on our sacred obligation to care for veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. I want to thank Chair Tester and Ranking Member Moran for their remarkable work to pass the PACT Act, and I urge the House to swiftly pass this bill so I can sign it into law right away.
Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L., Burn Pit Benefits: The US Senate Passed The Pact Act, Workers' Compensation Blog, June 17, 2022), https://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/2022/06/burn-pit-benefits-us-senate-passed-pact.html
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Blog: Workers ' Compensation
LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group
Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters