By Ali Zaslav and Jessica Dean, Cnn.com
The Senate on Thursday passed historic legislation that would help millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service.
A wide bipartisan majority approved the long-awaited bill by a vote of 84-14. It will now go to the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to move quickly and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill is an amended version of the Honoring Our PACT Act that passed the House earlier this year.
“Today is a historic, long awaited day for our nation’s veterans,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a floor speech on Thursday ahead of the vote. “In a few moments, the Senate is finally going to pass the PACT Act, the most significant expansion of health care benefits to our veterans in generations.”
Schumer continued, “The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God.”
Burn pits were commonly used to burn waste, including everyday trash, munitions, hazardous material and chemical compounds at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan until about 2010.
A 2020 member survey by the advocacy organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins. The VA has denied approximately 70% of veterans’ burn pit claims since 9/11, according to previous statements by Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican and ranking GOP member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The legislation is years in the making, and, once signed into law, would amount to a major bipartisan victory.
Click here to read more on cnn.com