Minnesota Commander Jennifer Havlick
Aug. 3, 2022
Veterans of wars in the Middle East who were exposed to toxic burn pits will finally get the VA health care they deserve as a result of the U.S. Senate passing the PACT Act on Tuesday, Aug. 2, on a vote of 86-11. The American Legion Department of Minnesota applauds the Senate’s action.
“The American Legion has pushed tirelessly for this legislation to pass Congress. Legionnaires told their lawmakers again and again to vote for this bill,” said Minnesota American Legion Commander Jennifer Havlick of Duluth Post 28. “We are glad to see it pass with bipartisan support. Now, once the president signs it into law, the Legion can move forward with making sure the VA executes the intent of the PACT Act and that these veterans receive timely and effective health care. Our government put them in toxic situations, and our government must not leave them to suffer or die.”
The PACT Act addresses the full spectrum of known issues affecting toxic-exposed veterans’ access to VA benefits and care, while also reforming VA’s presumptive decision-making process.
The sweeping legislation provides a comprehensive framework to improve the presumptive process for burn pit veterans by streamlining access to health-care benefits for those who served in areas of known toxic exposure — regardless of disability status — and provides health care for as many as 3.5 million veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits.
Toxic smoke and fumes from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan included medical and human waste, jet fuel, chemicals, metal, munitions and unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics, Styrofoam and more.
The bill is named after Army National Guard Sgt. Heath Robinson. After deploying to Kosovo and Iraq as a combat medic with the Ohio National Guard, Robinson was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder and Stage 4 lung cancer. He died in May 2020, leaving behind his wife and daughter, Brielle. The legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Biden in the coming days.