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August 10, 2022

King Celebrates President Biden Signing “Burn Pits” Bill to Support America’s Veterans With Toxic Exposure

King-backed bipartisan PACT Act will deliver critical resources and healthcare to American veterans exposed to hazardous materials in line of duty

BRUNSWICK, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today applauded President Joe Biden signing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation to provide veterans exposed to toxic hazards their earned healthcare and benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The new law expands VA benefits eligibility for more than 3.5 million veterans with exposure to toxic hazards like burn pits and Agent Orange – meeting the present and future needs of America’s servicemembers. 

“Today, America has taken a historic, long overdue step to meet the solemn commitment of support we owe to our veterans,” said Senator King. “Thousands of America’s men and women in uniform have been exposed to toxic substances in the line of duty, and for far too long, our nation left these servicemembers to battle the resulting health issues alone. After years of advocacy from veterans groups, the just-signed PACT Act finally addresses this moral failure by providing hazard-exposed veterans the full benefits, support, and healthcare they deserve. The law will save lives, and makes it abundantly clear that America will always support the needs of those who served. I’m deeply grateful for everyone who worked to make today’s signing possible, and for President Biden’s support of the critical effort. The effort may have hit a few roadbumps, but at the end of the day, Congress came together and overwhelmingly delivered on our nation’s enduring promise to our servicemembers.”

Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service. The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:

  • Expand VA health care to more than 3.5 million toxic exposed and post-9/11 combat 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.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator King has been a staunch advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. He has made addressing the mental health and suicide epidemic facing America’s veterans one of his top priorities, and after hearing the suggestion during a Veterans History Project Interview, secured a report on servicemember suicide in the committee draft of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. He also recently introduced the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act, which would work to improve the Department of Defense’s servicemember suicide prevention efforts. 

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