Rep. Castor Champions Legislation to Serve Health Needs of 3.5 Million Toxic-Exposed Veterans
Bill will head to President Biden’s desk after a final vote in the Senate
Just as she promised, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) proudly voted to pass the Bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (Honoring Our PACT) Act of 2022.
“We are one step closer to keeping our promise to veterans who suffered toxic exposure and devastating health impacts. Now President Biden is poised to sign our bill into law and provide for over 3.5 million of our veterans, including many here in Tampa, the benefits they have earned. The Honoring Our PACT Act will treat toxic exposure as a cost of war by addressing the full range of issues impacting toxic-exposed veterans, including expanded access to earned benefits and health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Tampa Bay veterans have been leaders in the fight to secure care for toxic-exposed veterans, including my friend, retired Army Colonel DJ Reyes. I am grateful that DJ shared just how important this bill is, and I proudly voted yes on behalf of DJ and other Tampa neighbors who served our nation. Now, the bill will head back to the Senate for a final vote before making its way to President Biden’s desk. Our toxic-exposed veterans have honorably served our nation, and now, with passage of this bill, Congress is finally holding up its pact to address the needs of our servicemembers once they return home.”
A video on the importance of the legislation filmed by retired Army Colonel and Tampa resident DJ Reyes can be found here.
The Honoring our PACT Act is a comprehensive legislative package that will open-up health care to over 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service and finally concede presumption of illness from exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards based on locations and dates of service. It will create presumptions for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers, shifting the burden of proof off our veterans. This means that if a veteran served in a particular theatre at a particular time, they will be presumed to be exposed to toxic substances and therefore potentially eligible for healthcare and benefits. Critically, this bipartisan legislation will also streamline VA’s presumption decision making process, so that Congress does not have to keep intervening, and our veterans don’t have to wait decades for help.
This version of the bill includes a technical correction from the Senate bill that passed recently. The bill will then go back to the Senate, before going to the President’s desk for final signing.
Rep. Castor recently held a town hall to connect Tampa Bay area veterans with resources and services available to them – a video of the town hall and compilation of local resources can be found here.