Kansas leaders urge Senate to pass bill to better care for toxin-exposed veterans

FILE - Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly salutes Sergeant Ryan Marsh who was awarded for "Outstanding...
FILE - Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly salutes Sergeant Ryan Marsh who was awarded for "Outstanding Marksman" on Friday, March 18.(Governor Laura Kelly's Office)
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 11:57 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has called on the U.S. Senate to pass a bill proposed by Senator Jerry Moran to better care for veterans exposed to deadly toxins during their military service.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has followed in the steps of U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and says she called on the U.S. Senate to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 which would provide health care and benefits to veterans exposed to toxins during their military service.

Gov. Kelly said the comprehensive bill is the result of a bipartisan agreement between Moran and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). She said the House of Representatives has passed the bill, however, the Senate is expected to vote on its passage in the coming days.

“As Commander in Chief of the Kansas National Guard, I am calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the Honoring our PACT Act – and on President Biden to sign it – because it is essential that we care for the troops who have done so much to protect us,” Kelly said. “For far too long, our veterans have been left without the benefits and services they deserve because Congress failed to act. I want to thank Senator Jerry Moran for working to change that and for finding a bipartisan solution that delivers long-overdue healthcare for our veterans.”

Kelly said the bill is also named for Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson, who had been deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 from toxic exposure during his military service.

“After their sacrifice, bravery, and service, our veterans should not have to prove that they earned our support and care,” said U.S. Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS). “I’m joining the millions of toxic-exposed veterans who have struggled in silence, who have felt ignored and unheard, and whose families have grieved alongside them to call on the Senate: Pass the Honoring our PACT Act and deliver the care and the accountability that our veterans and service members deserve.”

Among other things, the Governor noted that the Honor Our PACT Act would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans - which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans. She said nearly half of the troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 were from the National Guard and reserves.

“Our Service Members answer the call and are there when the nation asks them to serve,” said Kansas Adjutant General Major General David Weishaar. “I believe it is crucial that, as a nation, we take care of those veterans upon their return home.”

Also on Thursday, Sen. Moran said he spoke again on the U.S. Senate Floor about the legislation.

“I want to speak this morning to America’s veterans and provide an update on our work to get our toxic exposure legislation across the finish line,” Moran said. “The Senate is in the midst of considering the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act. This historic and bipartisan legislation will deliver on the promise we made as a country to take care of our service men and women both when they deploy and when they come home.”

During his speech, Moran highlighted support from several Kansas veterans - including John Buckley, a retired U.S. Army Colonel from Andover, Kansas Rep. Pat Proctor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel from Leavenworth, and former Deputy Commanding General of Support for Fort Riley’s First Infantry Division William Turner from Manhattan.

“This country is good at recognizing the physical wounds of war, and we are getting better at recognizing the mental wounds of war,” Moran continued. “But no longer can we ignore the wounds of war from toxic exposure—the wounds, like Agent Orange before it, that may not arrive until years later. Throughout the remaining procedural votes on the Heath Robinson Act, I urge my colleagues with remaining questions or concerns to reach out so that we can all, together, deliver on this promise to those who have borne the battle.”

To read the full text of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, click HERE.

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