WASHINGTON, DC (WECT) – Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina voted against final passage of the PACT Act, which expands health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. His colleague from the Tar Heel state, Sen. Richard Burr, voted for the bill. The final vote on S3373 was 86-11 in favor, sending the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
Sen. Tillis’s office released a statement explaining his vote against the measure:
“I have long been involved in addressing the issue of toxic exposure, ensuring toxic-exposed veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. I strongly support the goal of the PACT Act and I drafted large portions of the legislative text. The package includes the TEAM Act, legislation I introduced that establishes an enduring, scientifically-backed framework for determining past, present, and future presumptions. Additionally, this legislation includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, introduced by Senator Burr and myself. Congress has an obligation to ensure the VA can effectively and efficiently implement any comprehensive toxic exposure legislation and, unfortunately, I continue to have reservations about the Department’s ability to do so.
“While well-intentioned, the PACT Act creates new promises to veterans while breaking existing ones, which is why I could not support its passage. I recently listened to Secretary McDonough describe the challenges the VA is facing in meeting current obligations and it’s clear that the Department does not have the capacity to properly implement the PACT Act. This legislation will have adverse operational and administrative impacts, and I remain concerned that it will result in increased wait times, delays in receiving care, and a substantial increase in the claims backlog. I fully expect that in the coming years, Congress will be forced to make substantial changes to account for these unintended consequences.”
The bill includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which would allow soldiers stationed at the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 to sue the government for damages after exposure to toxic substances in the water.
WECT News has reached out to Sen. Burr’s office for a statement on his support for the bill. This story will be updated with that statement when we receive one.
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