McKinley Stands Up for Veterans, Expanding Access to VA Health Care and Benefits for Those Exposed to Toxic Chemicals

Voted in support of expanding VA benefits, streamlines process for Veterans

Washington, D.C. — Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E. (WV-01) took action today in support of West Virginia’s veterans by voting yes on the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act expands health care benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service, like Agent Orange, radiation, and burn pits.

“Our veterans risked their lives in defense of our nation and have sacrificed their health and well-being as a result,” said Rep. McKinley.

“We can not fully appreciate the conditions our brave men and women endured and how, years later, their physical health continues to be impacted by past exposure to dangerous toxic substances. They often develop rare cancers and other debilitating respiratory conditions, which may be a death sentence for some,” said Rep. McKinley.

“Time and again at our veterans’ roundtables, we hear from veterans whose health care benefits have been delayed or denied for conditions which are a result of exposure to toxic substances during their service to our country. One such veteran from Parkersburg fought cancer for years and later died due to exposure from Agent Orange. For many veterans, this bill comes too late,” said Rep. McKinley.

“We’ve listened to their pleas for years and finally had the chance to do something about it today. This vote was in support of the men and women who have shared their stories and challenges with us for more than a decade,” said Rep. McKinley. “Without question, I have always and always will support our veterans every chance I get."

VIEW THE ROLL CALL VOTE HERE


Veterans groups representing tens of thousands of West Virginia Veterans contacted our office, urging us to support the bill, including
:

American Legion Department of West Virginia, Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of West Virginia, West Virginia Goldstar Mothers, and Disabled American Veterans - West Virginia

 

The following story from a veteran in Keyser, WV, is just one example of the stories we have heard from countless veterans:

As a West Virginian from Keyser, I respectfully request that Congressman McKinley support HR 3967, the PACT Act. 

I deployed to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division twice. The first time, I was based in Baghdad and traveled throughout the country as an engineer. The second time, I was a company commander of an engineer unit deployed during the surge of 2006-2007.  We were deployed for 15 months and conducted “outside the wire” combat engineer missions every day.  During both of these deployments, I was constantly exposed to burn pits and also to toxic substances, particularly during classified missions.

During the second deployment, I developed a chronic cough but pushed through it because that’s what leaders in the Army do.

Now, fifteen years later, I still have a chronic cough that is growing worse with time. The VA found a spot on my lungs that is non-cancerous, but that causes me concern.  I worry that it is just a matter of time before my exposures turn into more serious conditions.  So many of my fellow troops have developed rare cancers, or even unknown conditions, that took them away from their families too soon.  But, when I look at my children, I wonder if all those years of breathing in dust and toxins will come back to haunt me too.

Thank you for your consideration of this important bill.

 

McKinley has supported other key veterans bills in recent months:

  • McKinley’s “VCR Act,” (H.R. 1510) was signed into law in November 2021, requiring the Dept. of VA to report on its policies and procedures relating to the usage and maintenance of video cameras for patient safety and law enforcement at VA medical facilities.
  • Supported H.R. 1836 – Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021, which rectifies the disparity of the National Guard and Reserve not receiving the same GI Bill benefits as servicemembers despite doing the same jobs with the same risks.

  • Supported H.R. 4673 – Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition (EVEST) Act 2021, which automatically enrolls eligible servicemembers in VA healthcare during their transition out of the military. Veterans would be notified they were enrolled and what benefits are available to them. Once enrolled, the veteran can also choose to opt-out if they do not want to receive healthcare.

BACKGROUND:

The Honoring our PACT Act expands the presumption that veterans deployed to certain locations may have had exposure to dangerous chemicals like Agent Orange, radiation and burn pits, qualifying them for streamlined access to relief and care from the VA.

Additional provisions include:

  • Provide healthcare for potentially as many as 3.5 million veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits 
  • Streamline VA’s review process 
  • Finally concede exposure to airborne hazards and burn pits 
  • Require medical exams and opinions 
  • Establish a presumption of service connection for 24 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to burn pit and airborne hazard exposure 
  • Create a presumption of exposure to radiation for certain locations
  • Expand Agent Orange exposure & add hypertension and MGUS to the list of presumptions 
  • Require VA provide standardized training & conduct outreach 
  • And improve data collection between VA & DoD and commission studies 

The PACT Act is also endorsed by all of the major national veterans’ service organizations, including:  

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). 

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