Health care for toxic exposed veterans

Dear Friend,

I am proud to vote today to advance the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act. This historic bipartisan legislation would finally deliver critical health benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxins during their service. This morning, I joined a number of veterans and their families at a press conference in front of the Capitol to talk about why this is so important.

>>I hope you can take a moment to watch and share the video of this morning’s press conference on the Honoring Our PACT Act.

VIDEO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich calls on the Senate to pass the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act to provide VA health care to toxic exposed veterans, June 7, 2022.

In recent years, medical researchers have traced a number of serious combat-related diseases and the deaths of many veterans to their exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals while they were deployed. That includes exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange in Vietnam and the open burn pits that were commonly used to dispose waste during the Gulf War and also in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Honoring Our PACT Act will expand VA health care for more than 3,500,000 toxic-exposed and Post-9/11 combat veterans. It will add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the VA’s presumption list and provide every veteran with a toxic exposure screening during their routine VA medical appointments. As the Chairman of the Subcommittee that oversees funding for the VA, I also worked hard to ensure these new and necessary benefits will not be funded at the expense of any other critical VA benefits and priorities.

I want to be sure to recognize all of the veterans and their families who have been fighting for far too long to achieve this overdue recognition and to deliver treatment for these toxic exposure conditions. That includes New Mexico Air National Guard veteran Master Sergeant Jessey Baca who developed constrictive bronchiolitis—a severe and in many cases terminal disease—that he traces to his exposure to open burn pits when he served two tours in Iraq maintaining fighter jets. For years, Jessey and his wife, Maria, led the call to establish an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry at the VA to better track and improve care for these conditions.

Passing the Honoring Our PACT Act will go a long way toward delivering on the promise that veterans like Jessey earned and should receive their full health care benefits and treatment for health conditions stemming from their service.

Sincerely,

MARTIN HEINRICH
United States Senator