The Senate has finally passed the PACT Act, which will extend health and disability benefits to millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals in the military.
The PACT Act was the culmination of a years-long effort by veterans and their families who said military burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan caused serious respiratory problems and other illnesses.
Burn pits were massive open-air incinerators that were used to dispose of many types of hazardous waste, including everything from used batteries to body parts.
The bill easily sailed through the Senate back in June, but another vote was required to fix a technical problem.
It was expected to quickly pass again, but instead dozens of Republicans flipped their vote and blocked it in an attempt to change another aspect of the bill.
Before the PACT Act, roughly 70% of disability claims related to burn pits were denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA will now be directed to assume that dozens of respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pits, allowing veterans to get disability payments and medical treatment.
Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange will also benefit. The bill adds hypertension (high blood pressure) to the list of presumptive diseases linked to Agent Orange.
The list of countries where veterans would be presumed to have Agent Orange exposure was also expanded to include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, America Samoa, and Johnston Atoll.
The VA would also be directed to provide benefits for veterans who were exposed to radiation during the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll; Palomares, Spain; and Thule, Greenland.
Source: Senate approves bill to aid vets exposed to toxic burn pits