PA veterans get new help under law that Biden signed - TAI News
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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on student loan debt at Madison College, Monday, April 8, 2024, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden announced on May 21 that more than a million military veterans have had medical claims for exposure to toxic substances approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The benefits and services related to these new claims are a result of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act that Biden signed in August 2022.

The legislation eliminated barriers that prevented or delayed veterans and survivors from being approved for claims related to health conditions that may be connected to toxic exposure that occurred during military service. These include medical ailments like asthma and cancer.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, waste collected on military bases was disposed of in burn pits. Studies have suggested a link between respiratory ailments and cancers among service members who were exposed to the toxic fumes from materials destroyed in these pits.

Agent Orange was one of a number of herbicides used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy forest cover and crops that were used by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, and veterans who served there have reported illnesses, including cancer, after being exposed to the chemical.

Biden spoke about the topic in remarks delivered in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“Veterans, you are the solid steel spine of our nation, and that’s not hyperbole. Your families are the courageous heart. Generations of patriots have stood on the frontlines of freedom, each one a link in a chain of honor stretching back to our founding days,” Biden said.

Among Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, Reps. Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker opposed the bill along with Sen. Pat Toomey, who retired in 2022. The remainder of the state’s delegation backed it.

When it was being debated in Congress, the law largely received bipartisan support, but some Republicans voted against it.

In his remarks, Biden noted, “It surprised me anybody voted against it, but a bunch did.”

Public opinion has heavily favored the new law.

In a June 2022 Data for Progress poll of likely voters, 93% said it was very or somewhat important for the government to provide health care for veterans who were exposed to toxins. Similarly, 93% said they either strongly or somewhat supported legislation like the PACT Act.

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