Heinrich Statement On Bipartisan Agreement On Toxic Exposure Legislation

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, issued the following statement on a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive legislation to deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history:

“I am optimistic that this agreement means that soon, veterans who were exposed to hazardous toxins during their service will have access to the healthcare and benefits that they deserve. I am grateful to my colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee for their diligent work in support of expanding these benefits, and for including a mechanism in the bill that ensures these necessary benefits will not be funded at the expense of other VA benefits and priorities. All veterans deserve access to high quality healthcare through VA programs. This bill goes a long way towards achieving that goal for veterans exposed to toxic materials who have been suffering too long without recognition from VA.”

Background:

The bipartisan agreement was announced today by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). Among itsmany priorities, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, named in honor of a veteran who died because of toxic exposure during his time in military service, will:

  • Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
  • Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
  • Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
  • Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure; Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
  • Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
  • Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
    • VA claims processing;
    • VA’s workforce; and
    • VA health care facilities.