Veterans Toxic Exposure Bill Delayed as Closure Attempt Rejected

Despite the partisan fight over mandatory spending, there remains strong bipartisan support for the underlying effort to help the more than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during overseas deployments. .

Basically, the bill would make service members who contracted one of 23 conditions — from brain cancer to hypertension — after being deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones automatically eligible for VA health care and disability benefits. This is a change from current law, which requires veterans to prove that their illness was a direct result of their deployment rather than some other factor.

Supporters said the measure was a long-awaited solution for millions of veterans suffering from illnesses likely caused by exposure to toxic chemicals from open burning pits used at military bases in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere to dispose of garbage and hazardous waste. A failure to prove the link between these toxins and these illnesses has prevented an estimated 3.5 million veterans from receiving benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled.

The measure is expected to cost nearly $280 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

While both houses had passed nearly identical measures in recent months, a second vote was deemed necessary to remove an arcane tax provision added by the Senate that drew objections from the House. Since the House had never considered the tax provision, it violated a constitutional requirement that all tax measures must come from the House.

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