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Tester Explains How New Legislation Would Assist Toxic-Exposed Veterans

In a call with Montana’s media members, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, announced a new piece of legislation that will assist toxic-exposed veterans.

Tester, who co-sponsored the act with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., describes the Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 as a historic generational piece of legislation.

“It’s a big deal,” Tester said during the call on Thursday, May 26. “It has been literally decades in the making.”

Officials say there are more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans in the nation. According to the latest data from VA, there are 99,646 veterans in Montana. Approximately 66,000 of those veterans could have been exposed to toxic substance during their service. This means that two-third of Montana veterans were likely exposed to toxic substances during service in a war.

Priorities of the act include:

• Expand VA health care eligibility to Post 9/11 combat veterans

• Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure

• Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure- related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension

• Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll

• Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure

• Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans

• Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce and VA health care facilities Tester admits that there will be challenges before the legislation receives the needed 60 votes in the Senate.

“We need to make our veterans whole,” the senator said.

Hearing will start taking place the week of June 6.

“The arguments are on our side, the side of the veterans,” Tester said.

The senator said that once the legislation becomes law, the VA would need to perform an outreach campaign to veterans.

Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson was deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service.

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