Cynthia Lummis Votes Against Healthcare Benefits For Military Veterans, Cites Costs
On Wednesday, The House of Representatives voted on the 'Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022' in a bipartisan effort to focus more on the healthcare of veterans that were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.
According to Newsweek, "The bill provides mental health services, counseling and other forms of medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans eligible for such care include those who 'participated in a toxic exposure risk activity,' which is designated as a required 'qualifying activity' as part of an exposure tracking record system."
The bill was passed with a 342-88 vote on Wednesday, with 88 Republicans voting against the bill.
On June 16, 2022, a different version of the bill was presented to the Senate, which was sent back to Senate due to "an obscure tax provision."
Senator Lummis, along with 13 other Republicans, voted against the bill, known as the 'PACT' Act of 2022.
Lummis stated that the reason she voted against the bill was entirely due to how much it would cost.
“I voted against the PACT Act," Lummis told K2 Radio News via a written statement. "It is critical that we provide care for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their service. However, I am concerned about some of the illnesses, like hypertension also known as high blood pressure, that are currently listed as presumed to be caused by military service. Hypertension is found in 74 percent of Americans over age 60 regardless of military service, and its inclusion in the bill would cost us more than $37 billion. Inclusion of diseases like this have ballooned the cost of the bill to more than $277 billion. I was hopeful Senator Schumer would allow a robust amendment process, and I offered amendments to cut this very expensive section of the bill, but Senator Schumer refused to allow any amendments at all.”
Roll Call reported that the revised bill removed the tax provision, yet it was still voted against by several Republican leaders.
An even earlier version of the bill was introduced in March of this year and 174 Republicans voted against it.
"Republicans who voted in opposition argued that the measure, which has a $300 billion price tag over 10 years, would add too much to the country’s deficit and exacerbate backlogs at VA," The Washington Post reported.
Nancy Pelosi said that Republicans were more concerned about "tax cuts for the rich [than] cancer for our veterans."
American Independent reports that "The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 would create an interagency Toxic Exposure Research Working Group responsible for planning and expanding federally funded research on toxic exposure; provide more health coverage for service members exposed to burn pits and Agent Orange; and extend health care eligibility to 3.5 million combat veterans who served over the past 21 years."
Specifically, the bill focuses on veterans who were part of the military post 9/11.
"During America’s post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, huge open-air pits were used to burn mountains of trash including food packaging, human waste and military equipment on US military bases," Yahoo News reported. "Thousands of US service members returned home from deployment and developed health conditions including rare cancers, lung conditions, respiratory illnesses and toxic brain injuries caused by breathing in the toxic fumes from the pits."
The man from which the bill is named, is Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson. Sgt. Robinson died in May of 2020 from cancer that was caused by breathing in toxic fumes from burn pits while he served in Iraq via the Ohio National Guard.
He was 39 years old.
Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, K2 Radio News erroneously stated that Senator Lummis was part of the House of Representatives and that she voted against the bill on July 13, 2022. K2 Radio News has corrected this mistake and included comments from Senator Lummis. We regret and apologize for the error.