WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) released the following statement on 84-14 Senate passage of H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our PACT Act, which is bipartisan legislation to provide veterans who suffer from toxic exposure expanded health care and benefits under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Senator Cardin has cosponsored similar legislation in the Senate.
“Throughout our country’s history, the United States military deployed burn pits in bases around the world as a means to dispose of garbage, plastics and medical waste. Over time came an understanding that these pits and the toxic emissions that they emitted posed significant risks to services members. Those who were exposed to these emissions for prolonged periods of time developed cancers, asthma, and other life-threatening respiratory illnesses thereafter.
“Unfortunately, those who suffer with these illnesses and are not able to directly link them to toxic exposures currently are ineligible to receive treatments from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Though nearly 235,000 veterans and service members have self-reported potential exposure to these toxic emissions through the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, data suggests that as many as 3.5 million military personnel may have been potentially exposed, including over 330,000 wartime veterans who live in Maryland. As a result, many of those who have sacrificed so much to protect our country while overseas have limited health care options to treat their illnesses when they return home.
“We are forever indebted to our veterans for their immeasurable sacrifices. I am proud to have supported this legislation that would extend health care benefits to millions of veterans who suffer from prolonged toxic exposures and am pleased that the Senate acted swiftly to pass it. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to quickly act on this legislation so that we can finally deliver relief to our veterans in Maryland and throughout the country.”
Over 330,000 wartime veterans currently live in Maryland, including nearly 171,000 Gulf War veterans and 60,000 post 9/11 veterans.