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WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, the United States Senate passed the PACT Act with bipartisan support, 86-11, expanding health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals while serving in the military. The bill extends medical benefits to any American service member stationed in a combat zone over the past 32 years, presuming that this group of an estimated 3.5 million people could have been exposed to toxic substances, especially from highly toxic “burn pits.”
The bill’s passage marks the biggest expansion of medical benefits for veterans since the 1991 Agent Orange Act, which expanded medical care access to Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to toxic dioxin.
The PACT Act is estimated to cost $280 billion over the next decade. This funding is guaranteed through a special fund that is not subject to yearly congressional spending debates.
In response, Emily Rogers, U.S. PIRG Zero Out Toxics advocate, issued the following statement:
“The brave Americans that serve and protect our country through our military deserve to be supported by our government, even after they return from duty. That is why I applaud the Senate’s passage of the PACT Act, which will ensure that veterans exposed to toxic chemicals in the line of duty will have access to the necessary health care they need when they come home.”
“While American service members and citizens should never be exposed to toxic burning chemicals in the first place, this soon-to-be law is a step in the right direction.”
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