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March 11, 2022

Honoring our PACT Act Passes House but Needs Senate Support

Last week, the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 (Honoring our PACT Act) passed the House with a 256-174 vote. This act aims to improve health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. It would establish a presumptive service connection for various cancers and 23 different respiratory illnesses related to the smoke from burn pits. If the Act becomes law, it would provide eligibility for VA medical care to veterans who (1) participated in a toxic exposure risk activity or (2) served in specified locations on specified dates. This will be accomplished in part by expanding benefits to veterans exposed by Agent Orange  during service in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. These comprehensive provisions dramatically expand veterans’ benefits and could affect over 3.5 million veterans. Opposition from lawmakers largely stems from its estimated cost of over $207 billion over the next ten years and the effect it would have on backlogged disability claims. Advocates counter that the price tag should not prevent lawmakers from providing veterans with the benefits they deserve.