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At Least 1 Million Vets Could Get VA Health Care Under Scaled-Back Exposures Bill

Published by Patricia Kime

( photo by Patricia Kime)

With cost imperiling a $282 billion bill that would help those exposed to burn pits, as well as Vietnam veterans with hypertension, two senators are proposing a much less expensive compromise that could still help more than 1 million veterans get Department of Veterans Affairs health care.

Committee Chairman Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the committee's ranking Republican, introduced a bill Tuesday that would create a one-year enrollment period for VA medical care for post-9/11 combat veterans who served after 1998 and never enrolled. It would also extend the enrollment period for all formerly deployed post-9/11 combat vets from five years to 10.

The bill, called the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act, would allow veterans discharged after Sept. 11, 2001, to qualify. The senators peg the cost at less than $1 billion.

But advocates are outraged over what they see as a breakdown of major legislative initiatives, estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, that would help former service members or their survivors -- the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act, and the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops, or COST of War Act -- since Tester and Moran's bill doesn't include disability compensation or a list of illnesses presumed to be related to exposure eligible for expedited benefits.

"How does the expansion of health care help the survivors filing for death benefits?" tweeted Rosie Torres, co-founder of the nonprofit Burn Pits 360 group. "Stop the delay and deny! Grant presumption!"

"Putting a band aid on a open sucking chest wound with your bulls--- legislation," tweeted activist John Feal. "These men and [women] need better, deserve better, earned better and you failed them! I will dedicate my life to ensure you fail again!"

The senators said the legislation would expand VA health care to at least 1 million of the 3.5 million veterans who served and....

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