Pat Toomey was one of 13 GOP senators who voted against the bill that greatly expands benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a Memorial Day post on his Facebook page, Pennsylvania’s Republican US Senator Pat Toomey wrote “God bless the veterans who gave what Abraham Lincoln called the “last full measure of devotion,” the troops that protect us today, & their families.”
Yet, Toomey’s support of veterans seems to end when it comes to helping those who were exposed to toxic burn pits.
Toomey was one of 13 GOP senators who voted against a bill that will greatly expand health care and disability benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in response to concerns about their exposure to toxic burn pits.
Senate passage of the bill by a vote of 84-14 sets a course that could help millions who served after Sept. 11, 2001, and caps years of advocacy work by veterans groups and others who liken burn pits to the Agent Orange herbicide that Vietnam era veterans were exposed to in Southeast Asia.
The bill is projected to increase federal spending by about $283 billion over 10 years and does not include offsetting spending cuts or tax increases to help pay for it. The House in March approved similar legislation that would have cost more than $320 billion over 10 years.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic US Senator, Bob Casey, voted in favor of the bill.
“We will never be able to fully repay our servicemembers and their families for their sacrifice, but we can, and we must, take care of them now,” Casey said in a statement. “The Honoring Our PACT Act would help our veterans exposed to toxins in the line of duty access the benefits they rightfully earned and make it much easier for future veterans to get those benefits without facing many of the hurdles that exist now.”
The military routinely used open burn pits set ablaze with jet fuel to dispose of tires, batteries, medical waste, and other materials during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would expand military veterans’ eligibility for medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs by extending coverage for 10 years after discharge instead of the current five years.
The legislation would also presume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit exposure, allowing the veterans to obtain disability payments to compensate for their injury without having to prove the illness was a result of their service. Currently, more than 70% of disability claims related to burn pit exposure are denied by the VA due to lack of evidence, scientific data, and information from the Defense Department.
The legislation would also benefit many Vietnam War-era veterans by including high blood pressure in the list of conditions presumed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange. And, it would extend Agent Orange presumptives to veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, and American Samoa.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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