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 The Comprehensive Veterans Health Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 would have repealed the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment reduction, and would have protected veteran pensions and educational payments from future Congressional budget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.