Burn pit victims: Feds, unions hail PACT Act

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Feds cheered the new law's signing this week, and the coming of far more comprehensive and fair health care coverage for millions of vets who were exposed to toxic U.S. military "burn pits" abroad.

About a third of the civilian federal workforce has served as active-duty military—so there's been a lot of celebrating among feds this week after President Biden signed an historic new law that will help millions of vets with serious service-related health problems.
In short, help is on the way for millions of vets harmed by exposure to waste disposal "burn pits" common across war zones in connection with our nation's conflicts in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, the Gulf War on the Kuwait-Saudi border, and decades of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The law is called the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics—or simply "PACT"—Act. It will permit the Department of Veterans Affairs to presumptively cover a number of illnesses, many originating from lung damage that often follow from exposure to toxic fumes from the routine burning of dangerous materials. The law also provides for 31 new medical facilities, training to VA healthcare and other personnel on the pertinent conditions and how to process the claims.

“As a veteran myself, this issue is personal to me,” said Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)—who attended the signing. “On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees we represent, a third of whom are veterans, I commend President Biden and the bipartisan group of lawmakers who voted for this legislation for fulfilling our nation’s promise to our veterans.”

“Our union celebrates the signing of the PACT Act, as the 283,000 VA employees we represent look forward to caring for the heroes who have been left without critical medical assistance for far too long,” another AFGE officer—Alma Lee, president of AFGE National VA Council, offered. “AFGE health care professionals and claims processors look forward to providing these veterans the high-quality care they deserve, and we thank President Biden and Congress for making this investment in the VA.”

The president of another major union also spoke for his members and others across the federal workforce with his remarks. “As the most comprehensive toxic exposure legislation passed to date, this package ensures the federal government fulfills its duty to care for our military veterans,” declared Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE). “Millions of veterans and their families will now be able to access the incredible health care services provided by the VA, a benefit our heroes deserve for their sacrifices in protecting America.”

Click here to view the VA’s resource page—or check out the White House fact sheet—to explore the new law and what it offers the millions of affected vets and their families.

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