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March 03, 2022

Rep. Aguilar Joins Bipartisan Effort To Expand Health Care Benefits for Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Pete Aguilar today voted for the bipartisan Honoring Our PACT Act (H.R. 3967), one of the largest expansions of veterans’ health care in a generation. This legislation ensures that more than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service have access to the health care benefits they earned.

The Honoring Our PACT Act creates presumptions for 23 different respiratory illnesses and cancers, shifting the burden of proof off our veterans by finally conceding exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards. A veteran who served in a particular theatre at a particular time will be presumed to have been exposed to toxic substances by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and is potentially eligible for healthcare and benefits. Critically, this bipartisan legislation will also streamline VA’s presumption decision making process, so that Congress does not have to intervene, and veterans do not wait decades for help. 

“We made a promise to take care of our servicemembers when they returned home and this legislation honors that commitment,” said Rep. Aguilar. “For too long, veterans have suffered while waiting for the government they fought for to recognize their illness as a cost of war. I’m proud to support this bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to ensure veterans have access to potentially life-saving health care benefits.”

Following recommendations from his local Veterans Advisory Board, Rep. Aguilar worked to include language in the legislation to include Thule, Greenland to the list of list of locations to which veterans are presumed to have been exposed to radiation. On January 21, 1968, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber crashed near Thule Air Base in Greenland. The B-52 bomber was carrying four nuclear bombs, which created radioactive contamination throughout the area. Although the U.S. and Denmark launched a cleanup, workers involved in the program experienced radiation-related illnesses.

Leaders from 11 Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) including the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion (TAL), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), and Burn Pits 360, among others, support the comprehensive bipartisan package. 

H.R. 3967 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 256-174. The legislation now moves to a conference committee, where the US House and Senate (S. 3541) will reconcile their respective versions of the legislation.