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Senate Passes Legislation to Provide VA Health Care to Veterans Impacted by Toxic Exposure

The Dakotan
 June 16, 2022
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) today issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed legislation to provide Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care to more than 3.5 million veterans from all eras suffering from conditions related to toxic exposure. 

“This legislation provides needed coverage to veterans exposed to toxic substances during their time serving and defending our nation and who now suffer from chronic illness,” said Hoeven. “At the same time, the bill supports improved training for VA staff and streamlines claims processing to help veterans more promptly receive the health care and benefits they have earned. This helps fulfill the promise we make to those who serve in the Armed Forces, and comes as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure veterans can access the health care they need both through the VA and from providers in their home communities.”

“For the first time in our nation’s history, we are providing health care benefits stemming from exposure to toxic substances during military service for all veterans ranging from Vietnam to the Global War on Terror,” said Senator Cramer. “The PACT Act provides veterans with access and resources to services and care. It is unfortunate this bill did not follow regular order and was not refined through the amendment process. Implementation and its success will ultimately fall to the Department of Veterans Affairs. I urge them to be nimble and responsive to veterans’ needs while making sure those already in the system are not neglected.”  

Among other priorities, the legislation:

  • Adds 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions.
  • Streamlines the VA’s review process and creates a framework for establishing future service-connected presumptions related to toxic exposure.
  • Expands Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll.
  • Requires VA to provide standardized training to improve toxic exposure disability claims adjudications.

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