As we celebrate Veterans Day, I want to applaud legislation that was recently passed that benefits our veterans and their families. In a positive show of bipartisan agreement with tremendous support from veterans’ organizations, the PACT Act was passed and signed by the president in August. Officially named the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins (PACT) Act of 2022 is set to expand health care coverage to millions of veterans.
The PACT Act acknowledges the health concerns of veterans and their families that were exposed to chemicals that resulted in serious cancers and other diseases. From the jungle defoliant, Agent Orange used during Vietnam, to chemicals from 9/11 and more recent issues with burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Act also covers The Camp Lejeune Justice Act that acknowledged the contaminated water on that Marine base. This is personal because my cousin, a Vietnam veteran who trained at the base, has had cancer. Veterans and their families who lived on the base for as little as one month between 1953 and 1985 are eligible for compensation.
Until the mid-2010s, burn pits (open-air combustion of trash) were commonly used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other overseas locations to dispose of waste collected on military bases. Waste products in burn pits included chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions, other unexploded ordnance, petroleum, and much more. This may sound “green” but inhaling the smoke from pits (as large as ten acres) often had short- and long-term health effects.
So, Congress acted but veterans pushed hard for this legislation. “The PACT Act is what happens when veterans lock arms and unite to fix a wrong that has been decades in the making”,… said Cory Titus, director of Veterans Benefits, MOAA.
Some still serve to fight for justice.