WASHINGTON D.C. (WLNS) – Legislation sponsored by Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin is known as the “Honoring Our PACT Act aims to make it easier for veterans to claim benefits and treatment for 23 diseases and rare cancers related to toxic exposure from overseas burn pits.

Veteran advocacy groups and the sponsors of the bill have called burn pit toxins, the “Agent Orange” of the post-9/11 generation.

With legislation inching closer to the President’s desk, vets from Washington to here are home are calling it a step in the right direction

“Today, the Honor our PACT Act, which passed the Senate, is the most comprehensive, historic, multi-generational toxic exposure legislation in American history,” said Kristinia Keenan, Associate Director of National Legislative Service of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Veterans and their supporters praised the Senate’s passage of bills aiming to cover ailments from burn pits and study the health consequences of the practice.

A practice that Lansing native Phillip Button knows too well.

“You know, we didn’t know much about it, except they burn stuff. And some of the smells that came out of there weren’t your typical burning stuff,” said Button, a National Guard veteran.

Button said he was deployed with a Michigan National Guard unit back in 2008 in Iraq. While overseas, he spent several hour shifts in a security tower near a burn pit.

He’s been trying to get from the Department of Veterans Affairs for breathing issues but said it’s been an uphill battle.

“The lady told me “well, that’s not a claimable issue” because, as they said, it’s not combat related,” he said. “You’re thinking to yourself that I was there I know what I saw, and they’re like ‘no that never happened.’ That’s not normal, so what you were doing so it didn’t exist,” Button said.

The act will require an overhaul of how the Department of Veterans Affairs reviews burn pit exposure claims. The burden of proof would be moved from vets by having the department presume certain illnesses in certain patient groups are service-related.

Bill aimed at tackling burn pit exposure in vets heads to Senate

Button said the promises of the act are reassuring but he’ll believe it when he sees it.

“If they can back up their words with actions, that would be, like for some guys, a giant weight lifted off their chests,” Button said.

The bill is moving on to the House, which is expected to act on it quickly. Earlier Thursday, President Biden released a statement praising the vote and saying he would sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.