Before the PACT Act – Five Remarkable Times Republicans Worked Against Veterans

Before the PACT Act – Five Remarkable Times Republicans Worked Against Veterans

President Biden signed the PACT Act today, less than two weeks after Republican Senators pulled the rug out from under it by voting down the bill. Now law, the PACT Act will open up live-saving medical access to hundred of thousands of Veterans exposed to burn pit toxins, the effects of which include cancer to lung disease. While we are still shaking our heads over a no-win decision by Republicans to vote it down (after voting Yes for it less than two weeks prior) we wondered about their record in the last decade on similar Veteran-related bills in Congress. Is there a track record that needs to be reviewed and reassessed? 

Despite veterans benefits and assistance programs being widely popular with the public for centuries, congressional Republicans continue to vote against programs that would provide life-saving assistance to veterans. Here are a some of the more high-profile examples of Republicans voting against bills or cutting funding that would help save the lives of Veterans and their families:

In July of 2022, 11 Senate Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Rand Paul, voted against a bipartisan measure (the PACT Act) that is designed to help veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals while deployed abroad.

In 2015, the GOP-controlled Senate voted down a bill to provide $1 billion over five years to provide jobs for unemployed veterans. The bill was fully funded, and would not have added any additional money to the deficit.

In 2014, Senate Republicans shot down one of the largest pieces of veterans legislation in recent history. The Comprehensive Veterans Health Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 would have repealed the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment reduction, and would have protected veteran pensions and educational payments from future Congressional budget fights. It would have also authorized the construction of more than 20 community-based outpatient clinics to serve veterans in rural and remote areas.

In 2017, Former President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders put forth budget proposals that would have done great damage to the economic security of veterans and their families—all to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.

In 2011, Republican Paul Ryan and the House of Representatives attempted to end VA healthcare benefits for disabled veterans who are Priority 7 & 8. This means veterans with conditions not recognized by the VA, like certain diseases from Agent Orange exposure, would have to pay for healthcare out of pocket if they didn’t have another service-connected disability.

It is widely believed throughout the United States that our brave and dedicated troops are some of our most important assets. When conflict arises, we can trust that they will boldly leap into action to protect and defend our nation, making immeasurable sacrifices in the process. Since the inception of our country, presidents and politicians from all political parties have enacted laws and agencies specifically designed to help support veterans and military members after they return home. 

Once A Soldier understands the sacrifice that service members and their families have made. We believe that all US veterans deserve support, and access to high quality physical and mental health care. There’s always pork added to any bill, and they get passed all the time. If that is being used as to why a Senator or Representative won’t vote  yes on a bill for Veterans, we demand that they put Veterans first and vote Yes. 

About Once A Soldier: Starting in 2017, our mission is to limit the scars of Veteran suicide. We offer prevention services and postvention services. We reach a national audience and our goal is to become the preferred channel for those who want to help Veteran families who need our services. With 17 Veteran suicides a day in 2021, we believe our two niche services will make a difference to each family and to our nation.

How To Register For Your Burn Pit VA Benefits

How To Register For Your Burn Pit VA Benefits

Follow These Three Steps To Get Your Burn Pit Benefits

If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits through the burn pit registration process. Having called the VA on this, their operators are still waiting on more details on how to process your claim, but you should start the burn pit registration process now. Before you file a burn pit claim, you have to register on the Burn Pit registry, then file a claim, and you then have the option to register with the VA. Veterans that receive a 50% or  higher disability rating are automatically register with the VA.

You can access the Burn Pit application here.

File a claim here.

You can register with the VA here. This is not required and you do not have to have been exposed to specific airborne hazards or have related health concerns to participate in the registry.

You can learn more about the PACT Act at VA.gov/PACT or by calling 1-800-MyVA411

Note: you do not have to registered with the VA to open a Burn Pit PACT Act claim. Nor do you have to have the previously required 60% disability rating. The PACT Act now classifies Burn Pit claims as presumptive meaning you no longer need to get medical approval to prove it was service related.

You are eligible to participate in the registry if you were deployed to the Southwest Asia theater of operations or Egypt any time after August 2, 1990 or Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, or Uzbekistan on or after September 11, 2001.

Regions and countries include: Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Djibouti, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, waters of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Egypt.

Operations and campaigns include: Desert Shield and Desert Storm (ODS/S), Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Enduring Freedom (OEF), and New Dawn (OND).

You do not have to have been exposed to specific airborne hazards or have related health concerns to participate in the registry.

The PACT Act Defined: What It All Means

The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history. The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act will bring these changes:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures 

What Is a Burn Pit?

A burn pit is an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more
prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food. Burning waste in pits can create more hazards compared to controlled high-temperature burning—like in a commercial incinerator.

The VA fact sheet on burn pits says veteran burn pit exposures to high levels of specific, individual chemicals that may be present in burn pit smoke have been shown to cause long-term effects, in some cases, on: skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

The IOM study  – supplied by this group – found these health effects associated with five or more chemicals it detected at Joint Base Balad in Iraq:

  • Neurologic effects and reduced central nervous system function
  • Liver toxicity and reduced liver function
  • Cancer (stomach, respiratory, and skin cancer; leukemia; and others)
  • Respiratory toxicity and morbidity
  • Kidney toxicity and reduced kidney function
  • Blood effects (anemia and changes in various cell types)
  • Cardiovascular toxicity and morbidity, and
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Here’s the roll call vote from yesterday. The one Democrat NO vote was cast by House Leader Chuck Schumer. The reason for that was so that he could recall the vote for a later day if something exactly like this happened.

About Once A Soldier: Starting in 2017, our mission is to limit the scars of Veteran suicide. We offer prevention services and postvention services. We reach a national audience and our goal is to become the preferred channel for those who want to help Veteran families who need our services. With 17 Veteran suicides a day in 2021, we believe our two niche services will make a difference to each family and to our nation.

Oh The Irony! The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act Is Broken – Full Texts of PACT 1 and PACT 2

Oh The Irony! The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act Is Broken – Full Texts of PACT 1 and PACT 2

Full Versions PACT Act 1 & 2

August 5, 2022 
Updated on August 5, 2022 at 8:12 AM EDT

“Burn Pit” Bill passed on an 86-11 vote on August 2, 2022.

Original Post:
Here is the original Promise To Address Comprehensive Toxins (PACT) version full text: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3967/text

Revised Promise To Address Comprehensive Toxins (PACT) version full text: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/3373/text

If you’ve never read a Congressional bill before, they are massively detailed documents. See the final version of the vote for yourself for what is officially called the Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) Act.

Republican Senators voted NO to help save the lives of our Veterans exposed to deadly toxins created by burn pit exposure. We have a post on why they did that here. This is a bill sponsored by Kansas Republican Senator Moran, the same Senator who co-authored the SSG Fox Veteran Suicide bill that passed in 2019.

When you compare the two document, the only change made relates to a tax status for the hundreds of private practice health care providers who would have cared for the Vets. Here’s the difference:

 “(e) NOT A TAXABLE BENEFIT.—A contract buy out for a covered health care professional under subsection (a) shall not be considered a taxable benefit or event for the covered health care professional.” 

That’s it! This was a tax exemption clarification that only affects the many private practice facilities that are required to render care to the huge number of Vets in need. Wait. Perhaps the tax breaks are what the Republicans’ flip-flopped on, but talking points in the days after centered around a $400 billion number. It was not pork. That is the price tag for the PACT. That money is hard-coded to pay for the program, period.

Of course, the human tragedy Veterans and their families face goes on in the meantime. As a nation, we need a discussion centered about Veterans. Once A Soldier is preparing to advocate for a Veterans Administration Czar who can rebuild that mess.

What Is a Burn Pit?

A burn pit is an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more
prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food. Burning waste in pits can create more hazards compared to controlled high-temperature burning—like in a commercial incinerator.

The VA fact sheet on burn pits says veteran burn pit exposures to high levels of specific, individual chemicals that may be present in burn pit smoke have been shown to cause long-term effects, in some cases, on: skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

The IOM study  – supplied by this group – found these health effects associated with five or more chemicals it detected at Joint Base Balad in Iraq:

  • Neurologic effects and reduced central nervous system function
  • Liver toxicity and reduced liver function
  • Cancer (stomach, respiratory, and skin cancer; leukemia; and others)
  • Respiratory toxicity and morbidity
  • Kidney toxicity and reduced kidney function
  • Blood effects (anemia and changes in various cell types)
  • Cardiovascular toxicity and morbidity, and
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Here’s the roll call vote from yesterday. The one Democrat NO vote was cast by House Leader Chuck Schumer. The reason for that was so that he could recall the vote for a later day if something exactly like this happened.

About Once A Soldier: Starting in 2017, our mission is to limit the scars of Veteran suicide. We offer prevention services and postvention services. We reach a national audience and our goal is to become the preferred channel for those who want to help Veteran families who need our services. With 17 Veteran suicides a day in 2021, we believe our two niche services will make a difference to each family and to our nation.

What Veterans Think About Republicans Voting NO In The PACT Act

What Veterans Think About Republicans Voting NO In The PACT Act

Real Comments From Reddit’s Largest Veterans Group

Please Note: The following content is Not Safe For Work (NSFW) because it contains profanity.

Keeping our finger on the pulse of what Veterans think about current issues, like the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act, or PACT Act, keeps us in touch with what they need. Here’s some of the unedited comments posted the day after the new broke. Here’s a blog post on the news event of the PACT Act getting voted down by Republican senators.

All 7 Democrat veterans voted yes (Kelly, Market, Peters, Reed, Blumenthal, Duckworth, and Carper). 9 of 10 Republican veterans voted no (Marshall, Sullivan, Inhofe, Ernst, McConnell, Scott, Wicker, Young, and Cotton). 3 of those no voters have OIF and/or OEF service. Even Republican veterans hate veterans (and before you fuckers bring it up, regardless of party they’re pretty much all former officers).

Crazy but there is some just flat out lies from people in this thread. Hell I would even question people that come in here to Gaslight some if they are even veterans. As they aren’t really here to help just here to try to paint one side horribly to win an election. Here is the main objection https://youtu.be/PPPeW1kpZY8 The issue is the way it’s structured allows to cram unchecked billions through a budget loop hole. So the people are using vets to eventually cram through other unchecked spending. Glass half full, there is already 400 billion allocated for burn pit treatment. Hopefully the people trying to play games can Lobby their side to just submit a bill that is not some scheme to leave an opening for more spending not currently outlined in the bill. If they truly cared that is what they would be doing.

With all due respect, that’s BS, and I’ll tell you why.

  1. This bill makes burn pit related illnesses and conditions presumptive conditions. That would make thousands of veterans suffering from these conditions eligible for care and support who are currently not due to the limited time window.

  2. These folks voted for it a couple weeks ago. The bill already moved through the Senate, and the House. It goes back to the house of origin mostly as a formality to re-approve the reconciled bill.

You know what changed in a couple weeks? The projections regarding the “red wave” that was supposed to sweep Congress. For the first time, it appears that the Democrats might hold the Senate, and the Republicans are desperate to prevent any win for the Democrats. This is a purely cynical political play, and thousands of veterans have just been sacrificed for nothing except cynical, dirty, low down politics of the worst kind. But people like you will always be around to apologize, gaslight, and spin on their behalf. It’s disgusting.

They love playing both sides when veterans are the ones getting fucked. Wouldn’t expect any less from an account named after the racist/homophobic emails.

“Joni Kay Ernst is an American former military officer” – Voted No, How fucking dare she. What veteran votes no on this?

The agent orange act wasn’t passed for Vietnam veterans until 1991. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Orange_Act_of_1991

If you want to check how your particular Senators voted, here’s the Senate.gov vote tally: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_votes/vote1172/vote_117_2_00272.htm

*Edit – Holy hell – This is not the separate reconciliation bill. I keep seeing that conflated to give cover to no votes, but that’s a separate animal. Read folks. READ.

Wow shocking Burr and Tillis voted No? But I got am email saying Tillis loves vets … fucking scumbags.

I will never understand how people buy that the Republican part is pro veteran when they consistently vote against shit that will benefit veterans.

Never fails. Post 9/11 GI bill, probably one of the best thing to happen to veterans… yup, you guessed it GOP against it. John McCain lost me after that one.

Republicans are Pro Making Veterans. Once we’re home they don’t give a fuck unless we can be used for a photo op.

Republicans are Pro Making Veterans. Once we’re home they don’t give a fuck unless we can be used for a photo op.

They didn’t even give a fuck about us while we were in. I can’t tell you how often we had to suspend training because Bush was flying above us on the way to his ranch. Or the field op we cancelled because he needed a backdrop for a speech. Or the shitty armor he sent us there with. Or the bullshit lies that got in into that war in the first place.

Here’s the source of these comments. 

What Is a Burn Pit?

A burn pit is an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more
prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food. Burning waste in pits can create more hazards compared to controlled high-temperature burning—like in a commercial incinerator.

The VA fact sheet on burn pits says veteran burn pit exposures to high levels of specific, individual chemicals that may be present in burn pit smoke have been shown to cause long-term effects, in some cases, on: skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

The IOM study  – supplied by this group – found these health effects associated with five or more chemicals it detected at Joint Base Balad in Iraq:

  • Neurologic effects and reduced central nervous system function
  • Liver toxicity and reduced liver function
  • Cancer (stomach, respiratory, and skin cancer; leukemia; and others)
  • Respiratory toxicity and morbidity
  • Kidney toxicity and reduced kidney function
  • Blood effects (anemia and changes in various cell types)
  • Cardiovascular toxicity and morbidity, and
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Here’s the roll call vote from yesterday. The one Democrat NO vote was cast by House Leader Chuck Schumer. The reason for that was so that he could recall the vote for a later day if something exactly like this happened.

About Once A Soldier: Starting in 2017, our mission is to limit the scars of Veteran suicide. We offer prevention services and postvention services. We reach a national audience and our goal is to become the preferred channel for those who want to help Veteran families who need our services. With 17 Veteran suicides a day in 2021, we believe our two niche services will make a difference to each family and to our nation.

Why Did Republicans Vote YES Then NO To Aid Veteran Burn Pit Victims?

Why Did Republicans Vote YES Then NO To Aid Veteran Burn Pit Victims?

Political Games Only Give Veterans More Burn Pit Fallout

US Veteran burn pit victims suffered another scar yesterday when Republicans flip-flopped their vote to deny medical support from exposure to the toxic fires. Twenty-four Republicans and one Democratic voted against the now ironically-title Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) Act the second time around.

Despite the messages from those who voted no, here’s what changed from vote 1 to vote 2:

“(e) NOT A TAXABLE BENEFIT.—A contract buy out for a covered health care professional under subsection (a) shall not be considered a taxable benefit or event for the covered health care professional.”

Original version full text: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3967/text

Revised version full text: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/3373/text

So why did they do it?

Short answer: It appears to be payback for Biden’s passage of the the $369 million climate and energy package. Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who also flip-flopping on this vote before he made a sweat heart deal for his home state. Back – to back wins was maybe too much for McConnell to bear this close to a mid-term election?  

“The PACT Act as written includes a budget gimmick that would allow $400 billion of current law spending to be moved from the discretionary to the mandatory spending category. This provision is completely unnecessary to achieve the PACT Act’s stated goal of expanding health care and other benefits for veterans,” said Pat Toomey from PA.

But there’s two problems with that statement: 

The price tag for PACT is $400 billion.

And if by omission he’s inferring that that was what was change – discretionary to mandatory category – it did not change. The only text changed form 1-2 is noted above. Visit here to see the full texts of both. Sounds to me like I’d rather have it as mandatory and so would the Veterans and their families. Spend it all!

And how you “sneak in” $400 billion dollars is also hard to imagine.

Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, followed Toomey on “State of the Union”, explaining that the $400 billion fund Republicans object to is included in the bill to ensure that “all the spending for this program is for the veterans exposed to these toxins.”

With easier access to the care our Veterans need, this bill would have broaden the understanding of the medical issues associated with the burn pits, therefore alleviating the suffering for millions still untreated. Those Veterans are angry as to them it seems the party that supposedly cares more for them could not care less.

The PACT Act was initially passed by the Senate – including 83 Republican Senators – before having to back to the House to fix a technical mistake. The actual mistake could be as simple as a comma or a number. In any event, it voted on again Thursday and 61 Republicans flipped their votes. Watching the videos from the floor of the Senate shows Republicans shaking hands and fist-bumping each other after the vote. It would appear that this cruel disgrace to our Veterans was more about the upcoming midterms in one month than helping Veterans and their families.

For Vietnam veterans, they’ve seen this before with the governments denial of toxic fall-out from Agent Orange. From our position, this is just one more factor as to why we’re losing the war on Veteran suicide. If the VA doesn’t care about them, it only adds to the emotional and medical locals they’re forced to carry. We can do better.

But that was yesterday. Today, the nonprofit group Burn Pits 360 is staging a sit-in at the Capital and demanding answers.

“We got punched in the gut, right by those 25 senators that flipped their vote from yesterday,” Burn Pits 360 Executive Director and co-founder Rosie Torres told The Hill late Thursday.

Torres said the veterans rights group was spending the night on the steps of the U.S. Capitol “as a message to those senators, those 25 senators and asking them to right the wrong.”

“They shouldn’t be here, and to know that we’re in that America where they’ve turned their backs on veterans and their families are sick and dying. It’s disgusting. But if this is what we have to do to get the bill passed, and at all costs, all measures, we’re going to get it done,” she said.

The group later tweeted it would remain outside the Capitol until the next cloture vote on the bill, which is expected Monday.

What Is a Burn Pit?

A burn pit is an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice
at military sites outside the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food. Burning waste in pits can create more hazards compared to controlled high-temperature burning—like in a commercial incinerator.

The VA fact sheet on burn pits says veteran burn pit exposures to high levels of specific, individual chemicals that may be present in burn pit smoke have been shown to cause long-term effects, in some cases, on: skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

The IOM study  – supplied by this group – found these health effects associated with five or more chemicals it detected at Joint Base Balad in Iraq:

  • Neurologic effects and reduced central nervous system function
  • Liver toxicity and reduced liver function
  • Cancer (stomach, respiratory, and skin cancer; leukemia; and others)
  • Respiratory toxicity and morbidity
  • Kidney toxicity and reduced kidney function
  • Blood effects (anemia and changes in various cell types)
  • Cardiovascular toxicity and morbidity, and
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity.

 

Here’s the roll call vote from yesterday. The one Democrat NO vote was cast by House Leader Chuck Schumer. The reason for that was so that he could recall the vote for a later day if something exactly like this happened.

About Once A Soldier: Starting in 2017, our mission is to limit the scars of Veteran suicide. We offer prevention services and postvention services. We reach a national audience and our goal is to become the preferred channel for those who want to help Veteran families who need our services. With 17 Veteran suicides a day in 2021, we believe our two niche services will make a difference to each family and to our nation.