PACT Act Signature Scheduled for August 8, 2022
On August 8, 2022, President Joe Biden will sign the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 in the Rose Garden.
After promising in his March 2022 State of the Union address to help veterans, President Biden called the PACT Act the “biggest expansion of benefits for service-connected health issues in 30 years” and “a decisive and bipartisan win for America’s veterans.” President Biden is reportedly eager to sign, but is isolating at the White House after testing positive for COVID.
Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has said that his will act quickly after signature of the Act. The Veterans Administration has already established a website to answer questions.
On August 2, 2022, the United States Senate voted 86-11 in favor of the Honoring our PACT Act – concluding a years-long effort. The Bill has a long history, through multiple sessions of Congress and many versions. The final version was led through the Senate by Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee and the House by Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Bost of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The Senate had voted 84-14 in favor of an earlier version of the measure in June, following House approval. After a technical fix, it was expected to pass – but Senator Pat Toomey stalled final passage over budgeting processes and 25 Republicans backed him. After veterans groups and Jon Stewart accused Republicans of prioritizing politics over veterans, the Senate voted again and passed the bill. The 11 Republican senators who opposed the final bill are: Mike Crapo (Idaho), James Lankford (Oklahoma), Mike Lee (Utah), Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), Tommy Tuberville (Alabama) and Richard Shelby (Alabama).
The PACT Act significantly expands health care resources for multiple generations of toxic-exposed veterans. It extends benefits to an estimated 3.5 million veterans exposed to hazardous chemicals while in the service. Historically, over 70% of disability claims to the Department of Veteran Affairs have been denied because veterans are unable to prove the connection between their service and their health issues. The PACT Act creates a framework for presumptions of service connection, removing the burden of proof. The PACT Act will also significantly strengthen research on the impact of toxic exposure and expand the Veterans Administration’s resources for helping victims.
The PACT Act is particularly important to veterans poisoned at Camp Lejeune, as it incorporates, in full, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, Under its own dedicated section, the Act provides former Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune residents — military and their families as well as civilian workers, who spent 30 days at the base between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 – the right to seek justice from the U.S. government for damages related to toxic water exposure.
United States Congressman Matt Cartwright, author of some of the original bills seeking justice for Camp Lejeune victims, celebrated the Act’s passage and looked to the next phase: “It’s going to be wonderful because it’s a victory for justice in the United States. I owe Jerry Parker a great debt of gratitude for introducing me to this problem, and I’m happy that he’s going to have a hand in bringing these cases to justice.”