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Blumenthal Praises Bipartisan Agreement on Historic Legislation Providing Comprehensive Relief to Toxic-Exposed Veterans

Legislative package includes toxic-exposed veterans

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised a bipartisan agreement announced by Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) on comprehensive legislation to deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history. The agreement includes legislation championed by Blumenthal to expand benefits and healthcare to two veteran populations that are not currently able to access services: veterans who responded to the nuclear accident in Palomares, Spain and those who were deployed to the K2 Air Base.

“This is spectacular news. Doing right by our veterans means doing right by all generations of veterans afflicted by toxic exposure. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve fought for this comprehensive package and will work to swiftly approve it,” said Blumenthal.

“I’m particularly proud to have secured provisions to extend benefits to Palomares veterans survivors and VA health care to K2 veterans. For years, I’ve advocated for them and all who suffer from exposure to toxins and poisons while serving. I look forward to swift action by Congress to send this bill to President Biden’s desk.”  

Specifically, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 would:

  • Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
  • Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
  • Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
  • Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
  • Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
  • Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities.

Many of the 1,600 veterans who responded to the 1966 nuclear accident in Palomares, Spain were sent to the site without protective clothing or warning of potential dangers, and were subjected to dangerous levels of radiation. As many as 15,000 U.S. servicemembers deployed to K2 Air Base—an old Soviet military site leased to the U.S. from the Uzbek government between 2001 and 2005—were exposed to multiple cancer-causing toxic chemicals and radiological hazards during their deployments.

To provide these veterans with the services, benefits, and healthcare that they need, Blumenthal introduced the Palomares Veterans Act and the K2 Veterans Care Act, which were incorporated into the PACT Act.

Once bill text has been finalized, the legislation will be put on the floor for a vote in the Senate. After passage and consideration by the House, the bill will be sent to President Biden’s desk.