Skip to content


Schumer Led PACT Act To Passage After Years Of Fighting Alongside NY Vets To Extend VA Care; Veterans Have Struggled To Receive Coverage & Had Claims Repeatedly Denied For Long-Term Health Effects—From Cancers To Respiratory Illnesses—Caused By Toxins In Burn Pit Smoke; Funding Also Helps Vietnam Vets Exposed to Agent Orange

Critical Funding For “Honoring Our PACT Act” Will Ensure Vets Exposed To Environmental Hazards Get The Health Care Benefits They Desperately Deserve

Schumer: Every Breath Our Veterans Take Is A Reminder Of Their Sacrifice; Our Vets Will Receive The Full Benefits They Deserve With The Help Of These Funds

After months of tireless advocacy, and an all-out push standing with veterans across New York State from Rochester to Long Island to Central New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced $5 billion has been included in the government funding bill for the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (Honoring Our PACT Act).

Specifically, the bill allocates $5 billion for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund, which provides funding for the Honoring Our PACT Act. The PACT Act extends health coverage for veterans who were exposed to burn pit smoke and other environmental hazards that caused cancers and other illnesses during their service. Earlier this year, Schumer led the PACT Act to Senate passage after years of relentless fighting to extend healthcare coverage to tens of thousands of vets across New York to get the medical treatment they deserve. 

“I am proud to have led the Honoring Our Pact Act to passage and to deliver this funding to extend critical care to our nation’s veterans,” said Senator Schumer. “Tens of thousands of New York veterans, and over three and a half million vets across America, have been exposed to toxins from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan in the line of duty, and for too long, bureaucratic rules denied them treatment for cancers, respiratory diseases, and countless other illnesses incurred while fighting for our freedom. Every breath our veterans take is a reminder of their sacrifice for our country. Funding this long overdue legislation keeps our nation’s promise of taking care of our veterans and providing them the full health benefits they deserve after they put their lives and health on the line to protect our freedoms.”

Schumer explained that the Honoring Our PACT Act expands health care access for veterans affected by exposure to harmful substances, toxins, and other environmental hazards, including from burn pits, which put service members in Iraq and Afghanistan in proximity of airborne hazards with the open-air combustion of trash and other waste like chemicals and munitions. Toxins in burn pit smoke have been shown to potentially have long-term effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract, and internal organs, and veterans often faced a complicated disability benefit claims process at the VA to get access to the health care they needed. Schumer said this funding and legislation will help extend VA health care to the tens of thousands of toxic-exposed veterans in New York, and 3.5 million veterans nationally exposed to toxic substances during their service even if they do not have a service-connected disability.

Schumer has a long history of fighting to expand healthcare coverage for veterans and fighting to deliver the treatment they deserve. In 2020, Schumer stood with Upstate New York Vietnam War veterans across the state to demand the inclusion of additional diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list. After a full court press that he launched in Upstate New York, Schumer was successfully able to secure the expansion of the list to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism for diseases associated with ‘Agent Orange’ exposure in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Honoring Our Pact Act expands on Schumer’s previous advocacy for Agent Orange exposure by further adding hypertension to the list of presumptive conditions. In addition, the bill also provides new or increased disability benefits to thousands of veterans by designating 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers as likely linked to toxic exposures related to military burn pits.

Details of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which was funded in the just-passed government funding bill can be found below:

  • Provide Priority Group 6 health care for over 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans
  • Provide 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 & 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
  • Resources VA with additional workforce and facilities investments to deliver these historic benefits to veterans across the country