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Shaheen Statement on Senate-Passage of Historic Veterans Legislation

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement after voting in favor of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 (the PACT Act). The bipartisan bill passed the Senate with a vote of 84 to 14. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Senate version of the legislation soon before it is sent to the President’s desk. 

“Our veterans deserve access to the full scope of care they need to get well, stay well and live well when they come home – full stop. This historic, bipartisan legislation addresses gaps in care that for too long have hindered the medical attention that veterans require due to exposure to toxic or hazardous materials. I applaud Senators Tester and Moran for their bipartisan approach to right that wrong,” said Shaheen. “Veterans face enough challenges in the line of duty – they shouldn’t have to fight for the care they need to heal and recover when they return. I urge the House of Representatives to move swiftly so we can deliver this bill to the President’s desk as quickly as possible.” 

Specifically, the PACT Act will expand health care for Post-9/11 combat veterans, create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure, expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of service presumptions and improve resources to support the VA’s claims processing. A one-pager on the bill is available here 

As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Shaheen has long championed and supported measures to help veterans who’ve been exposed to toxic or hazardous materials. In the fiscal year (FY) 2020 defense bill that was signed into law, Shaheen supported a provision addressing the health evaluations of service members who have been exposed to open burn pits or toxic airborne chemicals. Open burn bits were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the FY2021 NDAA that became law, Shaheen also supported an amendment offered by Senator Tester (D-MT) that would require the VA to provide benefits for veterans suffering from four diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The amendment was based on standalone legislation authored by Senator Tester, which Senator Shaheen cosponsored. In addition, Shaheen cosponsored the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which was signed into law in 2019 and created a permanent legislative fix to help ensure “Blue Water” Navy veterans get the disability and health care benefits they deserve as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.