July 13, 2022

Congressman Castro Votes to Expand VA Health Care and Services for 3.5 Million Veterans Injured by Toxic Exposure

WASHINGTON Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) voted to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act, bipartisan legislation that will improve and expand VA health care and services for more than 3.5 million veterans who were harmed by exposure to toxic fumes and substances during their military service.

“For decades, veterans hurt by toxic exposure have been forced to fight an uphill battle for health care and disability benefits. With the passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act, the VA will finally recognize their injuries and work to protect future generations of servicemembers from harm. I was proud to vote for this bill, which represents one of the largest expansions of VA benefits in recent history, and I’m grateful for the advocates — including Texas’s own Le Roy and Rosie Torres — who played a critical role in today’s bill passage,” said Congressman Castro.

“As Rosie and I reflect on the milestones of over a decade of advocacy efforts, we honor the lives of those that have perished due to the effects of toxic exposure and those who have borne the battle from decades of war from the War that followed us home; it brings us a sense of closure that the PACT Act is one step closer to passing into law,” said Le Roy and Rosie Torres, co-founders of Burn Pits 360. “It has been over a decade of facing delay and denial, closed doors, and a constant challenge in service members receiving medical treatment that is long overdue, having to ultimately flip the bill in search of specialized healthcare. This is a monumental effort that Members of Congress have delivered in support of Veterans suffering from toxic exposure. The PACT Act will provide relief to several generations of Service Members and families that lost their loved ones due to toxic exposure. We are grateful for the unwavering support of our Members of Congress that have supported this effort and we focus on the way ahead for the many Veterans that will benefit from this comprehensive legislation.”

Congressman Castro has long supported action to help burn pit survivors. In addition to co-sponsoring the House version of the Honoring Our PACT Act, he introduced the Family Member Access to Burn Pit Registry Act, legislation that would authorize family members of a deceased servicemember to register their loved ones in the Department of Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which tracks and analyzes the health effects of exposure to airborne hazards. In February 2022, Congressman Castro led an amicus brief supporting burn pit survivor Captain Le Roy Torres in Torres v. Texas, a Supreme Court case brought by Captain Torres against the state of Texas for failure to accommodate his service-connected disability.

The Honoring Our PACT Act will: 

  • 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
  • Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure and include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure
  • Improve the VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans
  • Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, the VA workforce, and VA health care facilities.