Veterans relieved as Senate passes bill to expand benefits to service members sickened by burn pit toxins

Long Island veterans are celebrating a victory to secure health care and compensation for veterans battling effects of toxic exposure to burn pits.

News 12 Staff

Jun 16, 2022, 10:14 PM

Updated 673 days ago

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Long Island veterans are celebrating a victory to secure health care and compensation for veterans battling effects of toxic exposure to burn pits.
By a vote of 84-14, the U.S. Senate passed legislation known as "Honor The PACT Act." It will expand benefits for 3.5 million service members sickened by burn pit toxins.
"We earned it," says Patrick Donohue, an Army veteran from Islip. "We went and fought, and we're sick."
Currently, the burden of proof is on veterans to prove their condition is directly caused by toxic exposure.
The "Honor The PACT Act" removes the burden of proof, making it easier for veterans to obtain health care and disability payments for their illnesses linked to burn bits.
Donohue was exposed to burn pit toxins during his deployment in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016.
Donohue says when the VA denied his claim for benefits, he went to law school and sued the department.
He won his lawsuit four months ago.
Donohue says the new legislation means other veterans won't have to go through what he did to secure compensation.
"It's going to take out a lot of stress and a lot of worry and a lot of time wasted for these veterans," Donohue says.
The bill will also benefit Vietnam War-era veterans by including high blood pressure in the list of conditions presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange.
Passage of the bill comes following years of advocacy work by veterans groups with Nesconset's John Feal leading the charge.
"Just like the 9/11 bill, there was a lot of people that didn't want to get this done," Feal says. "When you force the process, when your will is stronger than their politics, you get this done."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after Senate passage of the bill that the House would move swiftly to take up the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.


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