Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement celebrating the Senate passage of the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Named after Sgt. Robinson, who died in 2020 from toxic exposure during his military service in Kosovo and Iraq. This bipartisan bill will ensure that veterans exposed to toxins during their service to our country get access to health care and treatment they’re entitled to at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) facilities.
“Nevada’s veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and it’s my job in the Senate to make sure we’re honoring their service by providing them and their families with the benefits they need,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I was proud to support this bipartisan legislation to ensure all generations of veterans who suffered from toxic exposure in the line of duty can access the health care and treatment they’ve earned and deserve. I’ll keep working to support Nevada’s veterans across the state.”
Senator Cortez Masto is a champion in the Senate advocating for our veterans and their families. In December, her legislation to protect VA benefits for student veterans was signed into law. She recently introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for veterans who have a service-related medical condition to get the benefits they are owed. Cortez Masto has passed legislation through the annual National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) to help veterans exposed to Agent Orange get the treatment they need. As part of the NDAA of 2021, she secured measures to improve mental health services for members of the National Guard and Reserves, support Navy members in getting the retirement benefits owed to them, and increase the transparency and efficiency of the Department of Defense’s TRICARE medical billing practices.
Specifically, the PACT Act would:
- Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
- Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
- Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
- Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
- Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
- Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
- Invest in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities to set the agency and veterans up for success.