Well-Being

What the historic health care bill Biden signed means for veterans and their families

The PACT act is the most significant expansion of veteran health care in 30 years.
President Biden hands a pen to Brielle Robinson, daughter of the late Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson, during a ceremony to sign the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
President Biden hands a pen to Brielle Robinson, daughter of the late Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson, during a ceremony to sign the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Greg Nash

Story at a glance


  • President Biden signed the PACT Act on Wednesday which expands health care services and screenings to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. 

  • Burn pits are areas in United States military bases where waste is disposed of through burning.  

  • Veterans have been sounding the alarm to the harms of military burn pits. 

President Biden signed a bill into law Wednesday that expands health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits.  

The bipartisan bill, dubbed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, is the most significant expansion of veteran health care in 30 years, according to a White House statement.  

“The PACT Act is the least we can do for the countless men and women, many of whom may be in this room for all I know, who suffered toxic exposure while serving their country,” said President Biden during the bill’s signing.  


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“Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not only face dangers in battle. They were breathing toxic smoke from burn pits… I was in and out of Iraq over 20 times and in Fort Barstow and all those places you could actually see some of it in the air,” Biden added.  

“Burn pits the size of football fields incinerating waste of war such as tires, poisonous chemicals, jet fuel…and a lot of the places where our soldiers were sleeping were literally a quarter mile, a half a mile away.” 

The law essentially links 23 types of cancer, respiratory illnesses and other conditions to burn pit exposure and removes the need for some veterans and their survivors to prove service connection if they are diagnosed with any of those conditions.  

The PACT Act also lengthens the window that post 9/11 veterans have to enroll in the VA health care services from five to 10 years after discharge, in addition to creating a one-year open enrollment window for veterans who served in prior conflicts like Vietnam and the Gulf War.  

Under the law, all veterans enrolled in the VA will have access to toxic chemical screenings as well. 

Biden was joined by Danielle Robinson, wife of the late Sergeant Heath Robinson whom the bill is named after, along with their 9-year-old daughter Brielle and Heath Robinson’s mother Susan Zeier.  

Robinson died in 2020 after a yearslong battle against lung cancer which he developed after being exposed to toxic chemicals emitted from a burn pit during his time in Bagdad.  

Robinson spoke to her husband’s battle against the disease and how the bill would help thousands of other veterans who have become sick due to the harmful way the United States military destroys its waste.  

“As a military spouse, the day your loved one returns home safely from deployment, you count your blessings,” said Robinson. “Fear turns to relief when you start to live as a family again. But 10 years post deployment from Iraq, my husband began the biggest battle of his life, a terminal stage four lung cancer diagnosis due to toxic exposure from a burn pit.”  


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