In a stunning reversal the much-anticipated legislation that would aid veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and water contamination at Camp Lejune and other war sites was blocked by a unified group of 25 Republican Senators. The widely bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 previously passed the senate 84-14.
Following the failed cloture vote on the widely bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was joined by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA), and Senate and House colleagues, veterans service organizations (VSOs), veterans advocate Jon Stewart, and former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to push for immediate passage of the PACT Act.
This bill previously passed the Senate by a large margin with a vote of 84-14 and was being reconsidered in the Senate due to a technical error during the initial passage. Yesterday, the cloture vote on the toxic exposure legislation failed by a vote of 55-42. After previously voting for the measure, 25 Republicans changed their vote to vote against the PACT Act yesterday.
Highlights of the legislation include:
1. Presumptions for medical and disability benefits for burn pit exposed veterans; and
2. The ability to file a lawsuit for those exposed at North Carolina's Camp Lejune. for both veterans and civilians, who were on the base between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and were exposed to contaminated water and suffered birth defects, cancer, and other life-altering medical conditions.
“The fabric of our nation is built on the shared truth that we honor and care for our service members and veterans who have given everything to serve our nation. Yesterday, our Republican colleagues chose to play politics with the lives and well-being of these brave men and women,” said Senator Gillibrand, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “Just six weeks ago we collectively passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act with overwhelming bipartisan support to give our veterans the health care and benefits they have earned. Now, 25 Republicans are holding our service members hostage for the sake of politics. The lives of our veterans are on the line, and these senators’ actions are an utter disgrace.”
“Yesterday, dozens of Senate Republicans turned their backs on our nation’s veterans and their families by voting against the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act,” said Senator Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It was unacceptable and a slap in the face to every member of our all-volunteer military—those who served and sacrificed with the promise they would be taken care of when they returned home. My colleagues can make up all sorts of excuses as to why they decided to change their vote for this bill, but the bottomline is, veterans will suffer and die as a result on behalf of these excuses, and that’s why we’ve got to pass this bill.”
“Today, we planned to celebrate the enactment of our bipartisan Honoring our PACT Act – but instead, Republicans threw a tantrum on the Senate Floor and blocked benefits for as many as 3.5 million sick veterans,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Democrats advance People Over Politics: fighting to protect the health of those who fought to protect us. Yesterday, Republicans proved that they are just the opposite – willing to play selfish, partisan games with the health, lives and financial security of the American people.”
"America’s veterans have demanded action. Instead they got a bunch of Senate Republicans hiding behind hollow arguments about fiscal responsibility as the reason to oppose this bill when the MORAL responsibility of caring for veterans has been made crystal clear. This bill gives the mechanism to finally pay the true cost of war - the human cost of war. For years, toxic-exposed veterans have held up their end of the deal – I guess for some Senate Republicans – that’s just not enough," said Chairman Mark Takano.
“It’s a disgrace that Senate Republicans are continuing to play politics with the health care and benefits that veterans have earned, deserve, and desperately need,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Their partisan games are at the expense of veterans who are sick and dying from their burn pit exposure. Enough is enough. The fight to help burn pit-exposed veterans is not over, not ever.”
“Millions of men and women – patriots like Heath Robinson – served this nation without asking once what was in it for them,” said Senator Brown. “Yesterday, Senate Republicans thanked them for their service by using them and their families as a bargaining chip in their latest political game. Their gimmick will not work – we’re going to make good on our promise to veterans.”
“3.5 million veterans would have been put on track to benefit from this bill, and every single veteran and their family felt the floor fall out from under them yesterday. Veterans are angry and confused at the sudden change from those who they thought had their backs,” said Cory Titus, Director of Veteran Benefits for the Military Officers Association of America. “We will do what we have always done in this situation, we will regroup, rally together, and fight back to get this bill over the finish line. Our service taught us to work as a team, and our service fortified our resolve to never quit and never leave a fallen comrade. We will abide by that ethos, and we will charge forward to get the PACT Act passed.”
"September is too late. November is too late. The PACT Act needs to be passed before the Senate goes home next week. If any of us in the military had left our post to go home before our work was done, we would have been court-martialed. The Senate has a duty to get this done before they go home. Stay-in late, stay-in overnight, stay-in next week, stay in all of August. They need to do their job," said Bob Carey, Executive Vice President of The Independence Fund.
"Like so many, we watched the Senate cloture vote yesterday in disbelief. TAPS is a leading voice for the families of those who died as a result of illnesses connected to toxic exposure, and we know first hand that every day the PACT Act is delayed means precious time lost for our veterans suffering from the effects of toxic exposure. It is our nation’s moral obligation to care for our veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors, and we urge the Senate to pass this historic legislation without further delay,” said Candace Wheeler, Director Government and Legislative Affairs, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
“The PACT Act passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan manner, yet this delay continues because of political games. The American Legion demands that Congress end this delay and allow our veterans to receive the healthcare they desperately need,” said Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director of The American Legion.
“The Senate should pass this bill without amendment before they go home for August recess -- because sick veterans can’t wait any longer. No more excuses, no more delays, no more broken promises. The Senate needs to pass the PACT Act now,” said Aleks Morosky, Government Affairs Deputy Director, Wounded Warrior Project.
Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L., Republican Senators Block Final Passage of The Bipartisan Toxic Exposure Bill That Would Assist Veterans, July 29, 2022), https://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/2022/07/republican-senators-block-final-passage.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