Quantcast
 

Public Outrage Causes Republican Senators Who Blocked Veteran Care Bill to Reverse Course

  • Republicans have filibustered expanding veterans health benefits, blocking needed care to 1-in-5 American veterans. 

  • Congress passed over $6 trillion in wartime spending, but played politics with providing healthcare for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and burn pits. 

  • “Use the soldier and forget the vet” is dishonorable and shameful politics.

Senate Republicans prioritized partisan politics over supporting American veterans.  These Senators not only opposed the bipartisan PACT Act (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act), but they filibustered it to protest an unrelated comprehensive budget reconciliation measure Democrats recently proposed. 

 

The same leaders who thank vets for their service on TV blocked vital care to vets in an effort to score political points and appease the most extreme elements of their base.

A Mainre disposes of trash at a burn pit in Forward Operating Base Zeebrudge in Afghanistan on March 6, 2013. (Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz/Marine Corps)

A Marine disposes of trash at a burn pit in Forward Operating Base Zeebrudge in Afghanistan on March 6, 2013. (Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz/Marine Corps)

After days of backlash and criticism from their own party, the Senators reversed their stance on the PACT Act to save their own hides. Absolutely nothing changed in the bill, but they were forced to stop their game because people were paying attention. 

Who the PACT Act Will Benefit and How 41 Senators Almost Tanked It

Senate Republicans filibustered the PACT Act, which benefits one-in-five veterans, giving them expanded health care services for injuries related to burn pits, Agent Orange and more. Veterans who served from the Cold War to those who served in Afghanistan are entitled to these new benefits. The PACT Act also provides new benefits for vets who served in the Vietnam War in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Guam.

 

For those who served more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill established a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to toxins from burn pits. During these wars, burn pits would dispose of various types of toxic waste, but smoke inhalation by soldiers then, is now taking a toll on our veterans’ health. The timeline for Gulf War medical claims is also expanded under the legislation.

Last week, the bill ultimately fell short of the 60 votes needed to override the Republican filibuster. All senate Democrats supported the bill, joined by 8 Republicans who also voted yes. Republican leadership was silent on on their reasons for flipping on the bill. 

 

This result surprised and disappointed many veterans advocates, given just a month earlier the measure passed the senate 84-14 with bipartisan support. Only a few minor changes were made to the bill in the house, which then required another vote in the senate before sending the legislation to President Biden to be signed into law.

The Republican decision to block the PACT Act and delay getting much needed benefits to veterans with cancer and other severe complications from their time serving abroad caused quick outrage. 

Republican Vote to Block PACT Act Criticized

Senate Republicans took the opportunity to block the bill and the immediate help it would provide to American veterans as part of their political vendetta against the new comprehensive budget reconciliation measure.

 

The decision was being heavily criticized by Democrats, Republicans, and everyday Americans. 

 

Sen. Toomey (R-PA) stated on the senate floor when he voted against the PACT act that he was concerned about the cost of giving necessary healthcare to our veterans. Sen. Tester (D-MT) responded, “If you have the guts to send somebody to war, then you better have the guts to take care of them when they get home. If we don’t take care of our veterans when they come home, they’re going to say, ‘Why should I ever sign the dotted line? Because the promises I made and the promises the country made, only half that deal is being respected.” 

“Twenty-five senators who voted for the PACT Act last month changed their vote on the exact same bill,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Tim Borland in a statement. “[They] are risking more veterans getting sick and dying with every day this is delayed.”

Common Defense Veterans also condemned the block: "“The failure to ‘honor our pact’ and pass this critical legislation to provide health care for veterans who suffered toxic exposure during their service is catastrophic. And it’s tragically too late for many who put their lives on the line. Veterans like me returned to a country where politicians pay lip service to their suffering while holding benefits over their heads."

 

Jon Stewart, a comedian who lobbies for veteran support, called those who switched their votes “stab-vets-in-the-back senators”.

“The less charitable explanation is this: Republicans are mad that Democrats are on the verge of passing climate change legislation and have decided to take out their anger on vulnerable veterans,” Senator Chris Murphy of of Connecticut summarized the situation. 

 

America promises to protect her veterans after their years of service and sacrifice, but politicians have allowed political games to interfere with their responsibility to the veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for our country. By blocking the PACT Act, Republican Senators have demonstrated a troubling willingness to use the soldier, then forget the vet.

Jon Stewart Criticizes Senators Who Voted Against the PACT Act for Putting Their Political Agenda Above Veterans' Wellbeing 

 

How the PACT Act Got Passed

In response to public outcry and condemnation of some Republican Senators willingness to play political games with veteran healthcare legislation, most of the Republican Senators who voted to block the bill reversed their vote on August 3rd. The bill passed on August 2, 2022. Though nothing in the bill changed, the Senators realized what they had done was putting their political career on the line. Because all upstanding Americans agree, regardless of their political party, abandoning out vets after they dutifully served to keep our nation safe is unacceptable. 

Read More About the Pact Act

Military Times: Millions of vets suffering from burn pit, toxic injuries set for more benefits after Congress passes PACT Act

  • Millions of vets will now be able to access lifesaving benefits. Here's how the bill will help and how it almost got blocked in the Senate. 

Newsweek: These 41 Senate Republicans Voted Against Veterans' Healthcare—Full List

  • 8 Republicans joined Democrats voting for the PACT Act. 41 of them voted against it. These are all the senators that voted against it. Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) supports the Bill but changed his vote to no once it was apparent the vote would fail as a procedural move to allow a future vote on the legislation.

Military Times: New benefits for burn pit victims in limbo after Senate Republicans block plan

  • A bill that would benefit 1-in-5 veterans failed to pass through the senate. The PACT Act would improve health care and benefits for veterans suffering injuries from burn pit smoke, Agent Orange spraying and other military contaminant exposure. Veterans ranging from the Cold War to Afghanistan could qualify.