WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLNS) – Veterans, activists and federal officials are anxiously waiting for the signing of a massive bipartisan effort to address the health effects of burn pit toxins and other contaminants on the veteran community.
After several changes, the Honoring Our PACT Act passed in the House of Representatives overnight.
Representative Elissa Slotkin, who helped introduce legislation included in this package said this is a relief to see much-needed help get closer to becoming law.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of generations before us who frankly joined the fight and said “we’re not going to make this generation wait as long”, and it’s been too long but compared to the Vietnam era, it has been a lot better,” Slotkin said.
Representative Slotkin and Representative Peter Meijer helped introduce the bipartisan effort to expand Department of Veterans Affairs health coverage to more former service members who have been exposed to toxins from burn pits.
The Act also includes coverage for some victims of radiation exposure.
U.S. Marine veteran Shane Liermann is also the Deputy National Legislative Director for the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans. He has worked closely with lawmakers to develop this landmark bill which calls for further studies on the health effects of these toxins.
He says while people have some understanding, there’s still a lot to learn.
“While there isn’t a specific study that shows if you have been exposed to this burn pit at that distance you get this diease, we already have enough evidence to show that the known chemicals and toxins these diseases and injures,” Liermann said.
Liermann says he hopes the work that’s been done to pass this legislation will empower lawmakers and veteran affairs leaders to tackle future issues much sooner.
“We don’t know where this is going to lead. So we got to make sure VA is in a position to be proactive instead of waiting 20 to 30 years to include Congress to react to something that happened 20 to 30 years ago,” Liermann said.
Lawmakers expect the bill package to be signed into law by President Biden in the coming week.