By Tim Carpenter
TOPEKA (Kansas Reflector) — U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall of Kansas split on a procedural motion leading to blockage of a bill expanding veterans’ eligibility for health care and benefits for medical conditions tied to burn pits and other toxins during military deployments.
The Senate motion failed Wednesday when Marshall and more than two dozen other Senate Republicans took exception to a revision of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which was previously approved by the House and Senate. The House passed 342-88 the amended bill to correct a technical flaw, but some GOP members of the Senate decided to object to that follow-up version.
In June, both Marshall and Moran voted with a bipartisan 84-14 majority in the Senate for the original bill. On the failed 55-42 procedural vote, Moran — not Marshall — sided with Democrats in support of the amended version.
On Thursday, Moran took to the Senate floor to plead with GOP colleagues to complete passage of what he referred to as “perhaps the most important piece of legislation” pending in the Senate.
“Solve this problem,” Moran said. “There are veterans who are dying every day. There are veterans who have died since this legislation was introduced.”
He said the legislation directed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to add 23 conditions associated with military installation burn pits to the list of ailments recognized by the VA. It would relieve 3.5 million veterans of having to prove to the federal government their condition was linked to toxic exposure during deployments since Sept. 11, 2001.
Moran, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the bill also expanded recognition of Agent Orange exposure for veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll.
“The work that needs to be accomplished today, now, this week is the passage of the PACT Act so that our veterans who are encountering significant medical challenges have the care they need,” Moran said.
“And,” he said, “I would like to make certain that there is no veteran, even if he or she is nearing that time at the end of their life, in which they’re worrying about whether their children or spouse is going to receive the care and treatment, the benefits they earned by their sacrifice.”