Forward Observer: “Honoring Our PACT” Finally on Its Way to President

Senate Reverses Itself Under Pressure

Senator Schumer, Majority Leader of the Senate, with the help of other key senators, such as Tester and Moran, delivered on his goal in getting S. 3373 passed late Tuesday evening.  It took the concerted actions of the true believers to get beyond the quibbles of others.  Since no changes to the House version were ultimately made, the next step is enactment.  The President has said he would sign it.

“This evening, the Senate voted and passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, and while this bill is not perfect, it is the long-overdue action [40 years in the making] we have needed which will allow veterans of so many generations to receive the care and treatment for the toxic wounds of war without having to endure the mistrust and denials that the Vietnam generation of veterans were forced to endure,” said Jack McManus, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America. “Now we must ensure that the law is implemented in a quick and just manner.”

By way of background on what occurred, from gov.track.us:

The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 began as H.R. 3967 which passed the House on March 3 and passed the Senate on June 16, both on a bipartisan basis. However, the Senate’s changes contained a minor provision that purportedly violated the antiquated “blue slip” provision of the Constitution related to House-origination of revenue bills [only the House can propose revenue increases].

As a result, the bill’s provisions were given a second chance by being moved into this bill into S 3373 replacing this bill’s text in its entirety with the text of the PACT Act, with the minor offending provision removed to comply with the “blue slip” requirement. It was passed by the House in this form on July 13, though with less support from Republicans than the House’s original vote (unlikely related to the removed provision).

In a July 27 procedural vote Republican senators who had voted in favor of the bill blocked consideration of the bill, objecting to a major provision in the bill which was present when they voted for the bill previously. [The provision being contended has not been explained to the public by the senators involved, the media and veterans organizations — as best as we can determine.].

On August 2, the Senate passed the bill with no further changes and with most senators voting as they did in the original Senate vote on June 16, some changing their vote from against to in favor.

The final version of the Honoring our PACT Act is comprehensive and addresses:

1) Toxic exposure to include both a comprehensive list of overseas locations that would qualify a veteran for earned benefits

2)  A list of presumptive illnesses contracted as a result of airborne exposure

3)  Incorporation of the Veterans Disability Claims Notification Improvement Act (H.R.6131), which ensures the timely processing and notification of veteran claim decisions through modern, electronic means.

And it should be remembered that its passage built off the momentum of the monumental passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which finally granted benefits to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service off the coast of Vietnam.  This has been a long fight as McManus implied — and one not necessarily completely done either as it is not a perfect bill.

For more, click on this Military Times article.

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RJH
As of 3 August 2022

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