CHRISTIANS OPPOSE SENATE ROLLERCOASTER THAT PUT VETERAN BENEFITS AT RISK
As Christians, we are thankful everyday for the brave men and women who have served to protect our nation and our values. And we understand our responsibility as a nation to protect them once they’ve returned home.
That’s why we oppose the decision of Senate Republicans to play politics with the bipartisan PACT Act. They changed their votes multiple times, even though the legislation never changed, which delayed the bill that expands healthcare and benefits to veterans suffering from injuries related to burn pit smoke and Agent Orange.
Our veterans took an oath to God to protect our great country and democracy. The very least our elected officials should do is come together to find a way to support the veterans who are now facing severe health issues from their service. We must honor those who put their lives on the line to protect our nation.
While we are grateful that the bill ultimately passed after everyday Americans expressed our serious concern and contempt, it should never have taken public outrage to convince our leaders to vote in favor of our veterans.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
Senate Republicans Prioritize Political Games Over Supporting Veterans
Senate Republicans voted against the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — better known as the PACT Act— which improves health care and benefits for veterans suffering injuries from burn pit smoke, Agent Orange spraying and other military contaminant exposure. The PACT Act will benefit about one in five living American veterans.
Originally, the measure passed the Senate by a comfortable 84-14 vote in early June, and by a 342-88 vote in the House two weeks ago with significant Republican support. But it was sent back to a vote after minor technical corrections.
It was then that 41 Senate Republicans blocked the measure in response to Democratic leaders announcing plans for a comprehensive budget reconciliation measure — a plan that the GOP caucus pledged to oppose by whatever means necessary, including increased efforts to delay and complicate normal business proceedings in the chamber, such as the passing of the bipartisan PACT Act.
Democrats immediately took up for veterans and pressured their Republican colleagues to give them the benefits they deserve after years of service. "Republicans not only opposed expanding veterans' health care benefits - they actively filibustered it. They are more concerned about playing budgetary games and appeasing their extreme base than doing what is honorable for veterans," said Tristan Snell.
After a display of incredible pushback, from the public, veterans, and other advocates, Republicans came around and voted for the PACT act. But it’s clear they only did it to save their own skins, not because they were truly concerned about caring for our veterans.
How the Pact Act Will Help Veterans
For veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill will establish a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to the smoke from burn pits, used extensively in those war zones to dispose of various types of waste, many of them toxic.
The bill also provides new benefits for veterans who faced radiation exposure during deployments throughout the Cold War; adds hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy to the list of illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam War; expands the timeline for Gulf War medical claims; and requires new medical exams for all veterans with toxic exposure claims.
Veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Guam during the Vietnam War-era will be covered for the first time under the same Agent Orange presumptive policies as those who served in Vietnam itself.
Marine Corps veteran of Georgia, Adam Tomblin, said he is grateful to his elected officials who helped get the bill passed and expand care for veterans. “We were there to serve our country, but in the process we were exposed to toxic chemicals and denied proper care when we got home,” said Tomblin. “But Raphael Warnock has changed things. He helped pass a law to expand healthcare for tens of thousands of Georgia veterans.”
Other veterans groups have echoed Tomblin's sentiment. The Veterans of Foreign Affairs organization also said in a statement:
“Today’s passage of the PACT Act is a landmark victory for veterans of all ages, of all conflicts and their families. Too many of our veterans have suffered over the years from effects of toxic exposure, with no medical care, no recompense, and no support to their loved ones. They fought with everything they had to prove their illness was service-connected and were delayed or denied care until death overtook them.
No amount of money or legislation can bring them back. However, today, their fight was vindicated."