Durbin Urges Colleagues To Support The Bipartisan Honoring Out PACT Act

Legislation will help veterans suffering from toxic exposure in the line of duty

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bipartisan Honoring Our PACT Act, which is being considered on the Senate floor this week.  The legislation will expand eligibility for health care for veterans suffering from toxic exposure in the line of duty and directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to devote the resources and personnel needed to process new claims and treat new patients.  It also supports VA medical researchers to focus on the effects of toxic exposure in collaboration with researchers from other federal agencies.   It is estimated that the Honoring Our PACT Act will affect one-in-five veterans – 3.5 million veterans in total.  During his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin told the story of a Vietnam War veteran, Al LaHood.

“I recently received a letter from a man in Chicago.  He was writing on behalf of his dad who was a Vietnam War vet… Al was 22 years old when he was drafted into the Army and went to Vietnam in 1968.  He was an infantryman… stationed at Camp Cu Chi, northwest of Saigon.  He came home after a year with a bronze star for valor, but he brought something else home although he wouldn’t know it for almost 50 years.  His body had absorbed Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam to clear the jungles,” Durbin said.  “Four years ago, the toxic time bomb caught up with Al LaHood.  He was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Last year, even worse news when he was diagnosed with another rare cancer.  Doctors tell him he has a 30 percent chance of surviving for five years.”

Durbin continued, “I want Al LaHood and the hundreds of thousands of toxic-exposed veterans, their families, and caregivers to know, the United States Senate not only honors your service, we hear your voices.  This week, the Senate is taking up Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act.  The PACT Act is the most important piece of veterans legislation in a generation.  It’s about keeping promises—the promises we made to veterans if they risk their lives for our nation and became wounded as a result, we would not leave them behind.  They would have health care and benefits they needed and earned.”

Durbin concluded, “I have long supported this whole of government approach to research, especially at the V.A., and treatment for our veterans.  Many V.A. researchers are veterans themselves, determined to find innovative treatments and cures… I especially thank the more than 60 veterans’ service organizations, like the VFW… and so many others that helped produce this bill and the veterans who fought to reach this point—fought sometimes literally with their last breath.  I’ll vote proudly for the PACT Act and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.