The recently passed PACT Act, which expands health care and benefits for veterans exposed to fireplaces and other toxic substances, is long overdue. As someone who has been closely involved with the Department of Defense’s Wounded Warrior Program for nearly 15 years, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects the burnouts have had on our veterans.
Medical research has linked exposure to emissions from burn pits – waste burning sites on military bases – to a greater likelihood of developing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. But while working as the Air Force’s lead advocate for wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, I was approached by many veterans seeking help for undiagnosed illnesses. which they attributed to the flames and oil fires in Iraq. These veterans were frustrated. They felt like no one believed them or understood what they were going through. They didn’t know how to prove that their illnesses were caused by toxic exposures.
The PACT Act is a victory for these veterans and their families, and I was thrilled when the bill passed in early August. At the same time, I was appalled that the partisan game had to rear its ugly head before the bill passed: 25 Republican senators who had indicated their support for the bill a month earlier decided to vote against it at the last minute.
Most Republicans in Congress had no problem sending troops to Iraq or other conflict zones. But they refused to deal with them after their return, citing violation of so-called “budgetary procedures” as a flimsy justification for their opposition.
It is immoral. When the government decides to order our troops to fight, then we must hold it accountable to meet the medical needs of our veterans, regardless of the cost. I find it baffling that we can shell out money to fight wars but not have the funds to care for those who face the fight. Due to the failure of this policy, many veterans suffer from mental and physical problems that often become lifelong challenges.
President Biden’s administration has provided over $8 billion in aid to Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia on our behalf. Some warmongers are now pushing to send billions to Taiwan for a potential war with China. Incredibly, many congressional officials and their pundits have no problem with the impact this will have on our budget.
I distinguish the Senses. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, because they voted for the 2002 Iraq resolution. This war, based on a total lie, cost us over $2 trillion in the long run. Compare that to the PACT Act, which is expected to cost $280 billion over a decade to address military medical issues, some of which date back to the Vietnam War.
When I was at Walter Reed, I escorted many members of Congress who came to visit wounded veterans. Before leaving, the legislators thanked them for their service. I would always remind these public servants that it’s all well and good to thank our injured and ill veterans for their service, but what they really should be doing is acknowledging their sacrifice – and the often lifelong impact it will have. on their health.
To Members of Congress who, for whatever reason, have decided not to vote for the PACT Act, but are quick to thank veterans for their service, on behalf of service members and their families affected by fire pits and other toxic exposures , I say thank you, but not thanks to your hollow words.
CM Sergeant. (Retired) Dennis Fritz is a former Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. He is currently director of the Eisenhower Media Network. This column was produced by Progressive Perspectives, which is run by The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.