After being verbally flogged by comedian-turned-activist Jon Stewart, Senate approves Veterans Burn Pit Legislation 86-11

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The Senate passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act 86-11. The legislation expands health benefits for veterans suffering from a variety of conditions related to burn exposure.

It was widely believed that the PACT bill would pass the Senate without incident. However, that proved wrong last week when a large group of Republicans reversed their original stance on the legislation. The claim: Democrats had changed the original language that was revised earlier this summer.

The reversal caused quite a stir in the Capitol building, with Jon Stewart turning comedian and veteran. He had some strong words for the crazy Republicans. With celebrities choosing ridiculous pet projects to get behind, it’s nice to see one standing up for veterans.

America First, or America F**ked?

Jon Stewart has been a staunch supporter of veteran issues for many years. This particular issue about the care of burn-related conditions for veterans is one that he has been championing for quite some time. To those unfamiliar, fire pits were just what they sound like; holes filled with plastic water bottles, Styrofoam, batteries, paint cans, tires and even ammunition.

Many of us had to work those fire pits, and I even slept in a tent next door for nine months. As you can imagine, that kind of smoke inhaled and exhaled is not good for your health.

The proximity of these burns has been linked to several respiratory diseases and cancers. But unfortunately, until now, the Veterans Administration (VA) did not consider exposure to toxins as service-related.

So what does that mean for veterans suffering from debilitating respiratory illnesses or terminal cancers? It means they had a high probability that their VA claims were denied for 75% of the fire pit claims that received the denial stamp.

Upon learning that Republicans had changed their mind about the bill last week, Mr. Stewart gave them a deafening hearing:

“America’s heroes, who have fought our wars, sweating outside, on oxygen, fighting all sorts of ailments, while these bastards sit in the air conditioning, shielded from anything? They don’t need to hear it. They don’t need to see it. They don’t have to understand that these are people.”

He ended his scolding with this dagger:

“And if this is America first, then America is f**ked.”

So why the change by Republicans?

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Has anything changed?

The argument many Republicans who changed their minds made last week was that the Democrats had changed the original wording of the legislation. Do they speak the truth?

Not really. The wording in the legislation has not changed, except that a section unrelated to the removal of veterans with burn injuries has been removed.

So again, what was the problem? Perhaps it’s best to ask Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who, in all honesty, previously opposed the bill for the same reason he now argues.

Senator Toomey’s argument then and now is that an accounting division in the bill would:

“…allow our Democratic colleagues to spend an unrelated $400 billion in spending.”

When asked to elaborate, he clumsily stated:

“That’s why they do things like this. Because it is very deep in the weeds and very confusing for people very quickly. It’s not really about veteran spending, but what category of government accounting they put veteran spending into.”

Why he didn’t just explain the accounting principle he didn’t like in the bill is beyond me. But while government accounting is about as interesting as looking at paint drying, the concept he refers to isn’t that hard to explain; I’ll explain it to you.

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A matter of government accounting

The $400 billion that Senator Toomey refers to was originally discretionary funding, but was changed to mandatory funding. The difference between the two is relatively simple.

Discretionary funding is established by Congress and is subject to change at any time. So if a program doesn’t seem to need as much money as it did the year before, Congress can adjust funding to better meet the needs of the program.

Mandatory funding has predetermined amounts established by law, requiring amendment of an Act of Congress. So the fear that Mr. Toomey and others like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have is that if it turns out later that the VA doesn’t need all this money to help veterans with burn pit conditions, it will be used in other ways without supervision. of Congress.

To be honest, I think this is a valid point. However, some on the other hand believe that some Republicans were just lashing out at another bill.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said:

“The less charitable explanation is this: Republicans are angry that Democrats are about to pass climate change legislation and have decided to take their anger out on vulnerable veterans.”

It is difficult to say for sure whether Mr. Murphy is right about the correlation with climate change legislation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if lawmakers use veterans as political pawns.

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A victory for veterans?

With the PACT bill finally passed this Tuesday, veterans hope to get the care they deserve. However, those of us who have dealt with the VA remain skeptical.

Currently, the VA has 595,862 claims pending. Of those, 164,743 are considered overdue because they have been pending for more than 125 days.

It is estimated that the passage of this bill will add thousands of claims over the years, as approximately 3.5 million of us were exposed to burns. VA Secretary Denis McDonough promised:

“Once the President signs this bill, we at the VA will implement it quickly and effectively, delivering the care these veterans need and the benefits they deserve.”

With controversy still surrounding the VA over systems not working, a Georgia clinic worker beating up a 73-year-old veteran, and a VA clinic in Florida delaying care for a veteran with heart failure, I wouldn’t hold my breath . these new provisions provide relief at any time.

Jon Stewart said after the bill was finally passed:

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this situation where people who have already given so much had to fight so hard to get so little.”

Unfortunately, that is what those of us who served are used to. “Support the troops” is a cliché often used to buy votes and look good in campaign photos.

As someone with a lot of letters in my military medical records, I hope one day we get the support we deserve.

Now is the time to support and share the resources you trust.
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