‘Nobody should oppose this bill’

American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard has been at the forefront urging the Senate to pass the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, the most comprehensive toxic exposure bill to ever pass Congress. The legislation will provide VA health-care services and disability benefits for more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic contamination, including burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also expands the list of conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure and acknowledges illnesses suffered among veterans exposed to atomic radiation and toxic water at Camp Lejeune.

“People of my generation understand the cost of exposure to dangerous substances,” Dillard said in his opening remarks to the National Executive Committee May 4 in Indianapolis. “The Vietnam War Memorial is as jarring as it is moving because the names on those panels provide context to the price that was paid. But those names only symbolize the down payment. Thousands have died because of Agent Orange related illnesses.

“But it was The American Legion that proved to be their greatest advocate. After years of delays and obfuscation from administration of both parties, this organization convinced Washington that men and women exposed to this deadly contaminant must have access to VA health care and compensatory benefits. We must do the same for the current generation of veterans, and thousands of others whose exposure to toxic contaminants has gone unrecognized for years, even decades.”

Dillard asked those in the NEC Room at American Legion National Headquarters and others watching his live-streamed remarks to contact their U.S. senators to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act. You can contact your senators directly through The American Legion’s Legislative Action Center here.

“We hear a lot about cost from Washington these days,” Dillard said. “But what is a life worth? What do you tell a parent, spouse or a child about fiscal budgets when their loved one is gone? We have spent trillions rebuilding other countries from the ravages of war. These men and women, however, are also a cost of war and those bills must be paid.

“Nobody should oppose this bill.”

The Honoring Our PACT Act passed the House in March, and a Senate vote is expected before Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is the perfect time to deliver a bill for the president to sign,” Dillard said. “We know the military is a tight-knit brotherhood and sisterhood. The fallen heroes who we honor on Memorial Day would want us to care for their sick comrades.

“Lincoln’s promise, ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle,’ defines who we are.”