The United States Senate, on Thursday, June 26, 2022, passed Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The House is expected to pass the bill, which will then head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The Honoring our PACT Act is legislation that will allow veterans that were exposed to toxic substances to get healthcare through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This Act is the largest single health care bill in decades that directly helps veterans by expanding access to over 3.5 million individuals. The bill is named after SFC Heath Robinson, who passed away in 2020 due to exposure to toxins during his military service.

During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, waste and excess materials were disposed of by incinerating in large “burn pits”. These burn pits were often located near bases. Due to the pits containing hazardous materials, the incineration process emitted toxic fumes. According to a survey conducted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 86% of veterans of these two conflicts were exposed to burn pits during service. Researchers have now linked exposure to burn bits to many medical conditions, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, constrictive bronchiolitis, emphysema, glioblastoma, and lung cancer.

The U.S. military ceased using burn pits at bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other bases about 10 years ago. However, it is believed that at least 3.5 million veterans were exposed to a sufficient amount of toxic fumes to cause respiratory problems and other medical conditions such as those listed above.

Passage of the bill will be a major victory for those who have served our country with honor and distinction because the Honoring our PACT Act orders the VA to recognize that a dozen types of cancers, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, emphysema, and many other respiratory illnesses could be related to burn pit exposure. Jen Burch, the communications associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, stated that the bill will “remove the burden of proof from veterans and ensure the 80 percent of veterans previously denied will now have the benefits they have earned.”

The personal injury lawyers at Liever, Hyman & Potter, P.C., proudly support United States military veterans and their families. Information about the Honoring our PACT Act is being brought to the attention of the communities we serve as a public service. This is especially true since many of those who have served our country may not be aware of the important benefits that will now be available to them and/or that medical conditions from which they suffer could be linked to the burn pits. Contact Liever, Hyman & Potter, P.C. today for more information.

From the desk of Adam K. Levin, Esquire

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