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Congress Expands Benefits for Poisoned Veterans; Thune, Rounds, Johnson Vote No

Yesterday Congress finally passed legislation that veterans, with the help of comedian Jon Stewart, have been fighting for for years. H.R. 3967, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (the PACT Act), expands eligibility and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, Agent Orange in Vietnam, radioactive waste at sites of nuclear tests and accidents, and other poisons in the course of military duty over the past several decades. The Senate passed this measure 84–14 yesterday and sent the bill to the President’s desk.

In his State of the Union Address three months ago, President Joe Biden told Congress to get off its duff and pass this legislation:

I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to equip those we send to war and care for those and their family when they come home.

…And our troops in Iraq have faced — and Afghanistan — have faced many dangers. One being stationed at bases, breathing in toxic smoke from burn pits. Many of you have been there. I’ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan over 40 times. These burn pits that incinerate waste — the wastes of war, medical and hazardous material, jet fuel, and so much more.

And they come home — many of the world’s fittest and best trained warriors in the world — never the same: headaches, numbness, dizziness, a cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin. I know.

One of those — one of those soldiers was my son, Major Beau Biden. I don’t know for sure if the burn pit that he lived near — that his hooch was near in Iraq and, earlier than that, in Kosovo is the cause of his brain cancer and the disease of so many other troops. But I’m committed to find out everything we can.

Committed to military families like Danielle Robinson from Ohio, the widow of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson. He was born a soldier. Army National Guard. Combat medic in Kosovo and Iraq. Stationed near Baghdad, just yards from burn pits the size of football fields.

Danielle is here with us tonight. They loved going to Ohio State football games. And he loved building Legos with their daughter. But cancer from prolonged exposure to burn pits ravaged Heath’s lungs and body.

Danielle says Heath was a fighter to the very end. He didn’t know how to stop fighting, and neither did she.

Through her pain, she found purpose to demand that we do better. Tonight, Danielle, we are going to do better.

The VA — the VA is pioneering new ways of linking toxic exposures to disease, already helping more veterans get benefits. And tonight, I’m announcing we’re expanding eligibility to veterans suffering from nine respiratory cancers.

I’m also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and the comprehensive healthcare they deserve [President Joe Biden, State of the Union Address, 2022.03.01].

South Dakota’s delegation did not get off its duff. On March 3, Rep. Dusty Johnson voted against H.R. 3967. Yesterday Senator John Thune and Senator Mike Rounds declined to stand and compensate our poisoned veterans for their service; they joined twelve other Republicans in voting against H.R. 3967.

Blogger John Tsitrian, who tangled with Agent Orange in Vietnam, would like to know why his Congress critters voted against helping poisoned vets:

…Rounds has said, “our men and women in uniform make incredible sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms. Thus, it is our duty to make sure they receive the care they’ve been promised upon returning to civilian life. As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am committed to giving our veterans the care and benefits they need to thrive and grow.”

Thune, who often points with pride at his father’s combat service in World War II, has said, “We can never repay the full cost of freedom that was earned on our behalf, but we can make sure that our veterans know that we are forever grateful for their service.”

These are noble words from both our Senators, but their rejection of the idea that we should help vets with issues related to toxic exposure doesn’t square with what they say [John Tsitrian, “Thune and Rounds Are Two of 14 Senators Who Voted No to Helping veterans Suffering from Toxic Exposure,” South Dakota Standard, 2022.06.16].

Thune had time to go for a jog yesterday morning, then take some pics with non-jogger Senator Rounds and some South Dakota kids.

The American Legion yesterday thanked the Senate for putting “substance behind the phrase, ‘Thank you for your service.'” South Dakota’s Senators need to explain why they chose not to put our money where their mouths are on taking care of veterans.

12 Comments

  1. cibvet 2022-06-17 11:29

    It is time to question the South Dakota leadership of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled Veterans to see
    if they are willing to speak against our S.D. congressional cowards.

  2. Guy 2022-06-17 11:56

    I’m voting to replace Thune with Bengs this Fall. 2022 could be a year we need to clean house in South Dakota. Too many grifters who represent themselves and not the interests of the citizens they took an oath to serve.

  3. Guy 2022-06-17 11:59

    Bengs is a Military Veteran and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a Veteran service us in Congress.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-17 12:48

    Cibvet, perhaps at our senators’ next town halls, when they ask the veterans in the crowd to stand up and be recognized for their service, those veterans will remain standing and start asking questions about this bill and not sit down until they get answers.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-17 15:28

    The South Dakota delegation is acting like numbskulls…hypocrites would vote to send our troops into harm’s way and then deny them medical care when they return home, forever ill, forever suffering. They are turn coats, traitors of the worst kind.

  6. Jake 2022-06-17 15:31

    Phoney hypocrites-all three.

  7. Jake 2022-06-17 17:10

    For another great thoughtful expose’ on the hypocrisy of these three idiots see John Tsitrian’s take on their vote today herehttps://www.sdstandardnow.com/home/thune-and-rounds-are-two-of-14-senators-all-republicans-who-voted-no-to-helping-veterans-suffering-from-toxic-exposure-while-serving
    John and I, both being Vietnam vets along with many others, are simply baffled by this BS vote last week, fro 3 guys who never had on a uniform telling us “Let Them Eat Cake!” – “be glad we gave you that much!”
    Daily, as I read his thoughtful posts, I am struck by his courage and backbone to tell the trumpian era of the GOP to go fly a kite, and how wrongful they have become-so fast, in a few years. I used to admire some Republicans, other than Cheney and Ratzlinger–NO MORE!

  8. O 2022-06-17 18:00

    The GOP can put enter wars “off budget,” but when it comes to honoring the service and medical needs of those who served and were harmed — THEN the budgeting supersedes all other concerns.

    One of the biggest immoralities we put forward as a nation was fighting in (several) Gulf wars while demanding no sacrifice from the nation at large. The ONLY real sacrifices made where the soldiers (and their families) who fought those wars. The rest of the nation was able to live in blind denial of what was happening.

  9. Tim Zerr 2022-06-17 20:02

    Well my home state reps. are at it again. And yet when it comes election time, those Republican voters will forget about us war veterans, and others exposed to poisons again, and vote for these guys, especially if Trump with the bone spurs endorses them, and on July 4th they will be all wrapped up in the flag with their patriotic BS. Please do not vote for these hypocrites.

  10. jerry 2022-06-18 06:28

    EB5 Rounds will be confering with Thune about air fare to Thune’s beloved Putin Russia. Thune knows the good places to stay there. Dirty Johnson can catch up with his little Red Sparrow, Butina also as a reward for sticking American veterans in the back once more.

    I can tell you this, you always remember the taste in your mouth with you are overspraved with Agent Orange. I will now remember that taste while I chew back the bile I feel to all three of these frauds.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-06-18 07:39

    During an interview with WNAX radio Howdy Doody Dusty Johnson admitted the Republican Party is broken and he is crashing back to the center after being primaried. It would be funny if he thought nobody noticed he supported Trump’s extreme white wing of his party so vociferously.

  12. CK 2022-06-18 09:37

    Bengs & Smith should show up at Watertown today.

    Believe you me, many of us legionairres are not happy with our delegation. Their explanation that the PACT Act would put undue strain on the VA system is a cop out. The veterans of WWII, Korea, and now Vietnam are dying off and frankly…the strain on the VA will diminsh as long as the US govt continues to properly support it.

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