Tester Urges Action on Bipartisan Toxic Exposure Bill After Watchdog Report Finds Premature Denials of Burn Pit Claims at VA
Chairman: “We’ve got to pass the comprehensive measures in the PACT Act that’ll reform the toxic-exposure claims process and finally recognize and treat the toxic wounds of war.”
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester released a statement today following a report issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found VA prematurely denied burn pit claims to toxic-exposed veterans:
“The OIG’s findings are alarming, and highlight the urgent need for the Senate to take immediate action on my Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act and get it to the President’s desk as quickly as possible. The bottom line is that when it comes to getting veterans the health care and benefits they’ve earned, VA needs to get it right the first time. We’ve got to pass the comprehensive measures in the PACT Act that’ll reform the toxic-exposure claims process and finally recognize and treat the toxic wounds of war.”
The OIG’s report found that in one random sample, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) incorrectly processed 97 percent of burn pit claims. Many errors cited in the report could be resolved by provisions included in Tester’s bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. This includes using presumptions to simplify how VBA processes burn pit claims, requiring the VA Secretary to presume that veterans who served in specific locations were exposed to a prescribed list of substances and chemicals, and directing VBA to provide all veterans filing toxic exposure claims with a medical exam and opinion.
Chairman Tester introduced the PACT Act earlier this year to deliver eras of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits from the VA for the first time in the nation’s history. Among its many priorities, this legislation will expand health care for Post-9/11 combat veterans, create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure, expand VA’s list of service presumptions, and improve resources to support VA’s claims processing. The Senate is expected to vote on the PACT Act next week.