March 03, 2022

Congressman Castro Votes to Improve Care for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) voted to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act, comprehensive legislation to improve health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during their service to our country.

“For too long, our nation has failed to uphold our sacred obligation to fight for veterans like they fought for us,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “During our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, countless veterans were exposed to toxic burn pits that robbed them of their health and changed the trajectory of their lives. After returning home, they faced an uphill battle to get the services they deserved. Today’s bipartisan House passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act is an important step forward to improve care for our veterans, and I hope the Senate will move swiftly to send our bill to the president’s desk.”

 Honoring Our PACT Act - Floor Remarks

During floor debate over the Honoring Our PACT Act, Congressman Castro rebutted Republican arguments about the cost of the legislation. For the full video, click here.

Last week, Congressman Castro invited Texas veteran and Burn Pits 360 co-founder Captain Le Roy Torres to be his honored guest for President Biden’s State of the Union address. After exposure to burn pits in Iraq, Captain Torres developed a devastating respiratory condition that cost him his military and civilian career. This spring, the Supreme Court will hear a case brought by Captain Torres against the Texas Department of Public Safety for failure to accommodate his service-connected disability. For more information on Captain Torres, click here.

Congressman Castro is a co-sponsor of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which would:

  • Provide Priority Group 6 health care for certain toxic exposed veterans.
  • Provide an extension of combat eligibility for health care from 5 to 10 years with a one-year open enrollment period for those veterans who missed their window.
  • Streamline VA’s review process for establishing toxic exposure presumptions.
  • Concede exposure to airborne hazards/burn pits based on locations and dates of service.
  • Require medical exams/opinions for certain veterans with toxic exposure disability claims.
  • Add hypertension and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance to the list of presumptions for Agent Orange exposure.
  • Establish a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to burn pits/airborne hazards exposure.
  • Create a presumption of exposure to radiation for veterans who participated in cleanup activities in Palomares, Spain, and Enewetak Atoll.
  • Expand agent orange exposure to veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia
  • Improve data collection between VA and the Department of Defense.
  • Commission studies related to incidents of cancer among veterans, health trends of Post 9/11 veterans and feasibility of providing healthcare to dependents of veterans.
  • Require VA to provide standardized training to improve toxic exposure disability claims adjudications.
  • Require VA to conduct outreach and provide resources to toxic exposed veterans.