June 16, 2022

Duckworth Applauds Passage of Bill to Expand Healthcare for Veterans, Provide Care for Toxic Exposure


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), combat Veteran and member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, celebrated today’s Senate passage of the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, historic legislation that will overhaul the VA’s processes for toxic-exposed Veterans to include presumptions for several illnesses associated with burn pits and Agent Orange exposures to help deliver long-overdue VA healthcare and benefits across all generations of Veterans.

“After bravely serving our nation, too many Veterans come home to discover years later that their service has left them with respiratory and neurological issues due to burn pits or other toxic exposure, making them more vulnerable to serious illnesses,” said Duckworth. “It’s our duty to make sure Veterans can get the care they need when they return home with serious health conditions, which is why I’m proud the Senate passed this important bipartisan legislation to expand healthcare for Veterans and improve resources at the VA for those who served and sacrificed so much for us.”

Specifically, the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act would:

  • Expand VA healthcare 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; includes 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
  • Set VA and Veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce and VA healthcare facilities.

Duckworth successfully secured a provision in last year’s NDAA that prohibits the use of burn pits unless explicitly waived by the U.S. Secretary of Defense for extraordinary reasons. In 2020, Duckworth joined her colleagues to help introduce the bipartisan Pandemic Care for Burn Pits Exposure Act would require the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ask servicemembers and Veterans who have tested positive for a virus designated by the federal government as a pandemic, including COVID-19, if they were previously exposed to burn pits, so they can properly address their medical needs and ensure they receive proper care.