WASHINGTON — Millions of U.S. military veterans were exposed to airborne toxic chemicals from burn pits overseas dating as far back as Operation Desert Storm.
The Disabled American Veterans say it's time to help them out, by Congress Passing the "Honoring Our PACT" Act.
"These veterans have waited long enough. It's time to take care of it now. That's why we support that bill so strongly," said Jim Marzalek, DAV National Service Director.
Also testifying before Congress on Tuesday was the DAV's National Commander, Andrew Marshall. He said: "For members of this House, we urge you to vote yes on passage of this bill and to oppose any amendments that would weaken or limit the legislation."
At a special joint meeting of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on Tuesday, lawmakers from both parties and both chambers agreed.
"The time is long passed for us to provide benefits to previous generations of toxic exposed veterans," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana).
Also speaking in favor of the measure was Rep. Mark Takano (D-California).
"Our bipartisan bill finally provides access to VA healthcare to over 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances, It requires that VA presumes veterans were exposed to toxic substances rather than placing the burden on veterans to prove this link themselves," he said.
Rep. Mike Bost (R-Illinois) also weighed in. He said: "We just need to work together on the toxic exposures to come to a bill that we can move and actually get across the finish line and actually get to the President's desk so that we can provide as much as we possibly can for our veterans. And I will strive to do that."
If the bill does pass in the House, it still faces debate and a vote in the Senate.