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Aug 21, 2022

After decades of our government denying healthcare to veterans they exposed to poisonous toxins, the PACT Act - which will eventually provide this hard-fought-for care - is now law. In this episode, learn exactly who qualifies for these new benefits and when, discover the shocking but little-known events that led to their poisonings, and find out what exactly happened during those 6 days when Senate Republicans delayed the passage of the PACT Act.

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Background Sources

Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD249: A Few Good Laws

CD205: Nuclear Waste Storage

CD195: Yemen

CD161: Veterans Choice Program

CD124: The Costs of For-Profit War

CD107: New Laws & Veterans’ Health Care

What the PACT Does and Doesn’t Do

“BREAKING NEWS! Huge Step Forward for Veterans: PACT Act 2022 Adds New Presumptive Conditions for Burn Pit, Agent Orange, and Radiation Exposure.” Aug 10, 2022. VA Claims Insider.

Abraham Mahshie. Aug 10, 2022. “Biden Signs PACT Act to Expand VA Coverage for Toxic Exposure, but Some Are Left Out.” Air Force Magazine.

Leo Shane III. Aug 4, 2022. “Now that PACT Act has passed, how soon will veterans see their benefits?” Military Times.

“The PACT Act and your VA benefits.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA

Sidath Viranga Panangal, Jared S. Sussma, and Heather M. Salaza. Jun 28, 2022. “Department of Veterans Affairs FY2022 Appropriations” [R46964]. Congressional Research Service.

“VA health care.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Eligibility for VA health care.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Your health care costs.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Toxic Exposures

Burn Pits

“Ten things veterans should know about burn pits.” November 20th, 2014. VAntage Point.

“DoD concedes rise in burn-pit ailments.” Feb 8, 2010. Military Times.

“Operation Desert Shield.” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

“Operation Desert Storm.” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Agent Orange

Donnie La Curan. April 1, 2021. “Agent Orange Laos Victims Never Acknowledged by U.S.” Veterans Resources.

Charles Dunst. Jul 20, 2019. “The U.S.’s Toxic Agent Orange Legacy.” The Atlantic.

Patricia Kime. May 11, 2020. “Report Claims Vietnam-Era Veterans Were Exposed to Agent Orange on Guam.”

“Clinic Issues Report Confirming Guam Veterans’ Exposure to Dioxin Herbicides Like Agent Orange.” May 11, 2020. Yale Law School.

“Agent Orange - Johnston Island Atoll, AFB.” Vietnam Security Police Association.

Susan E. Davis. Apr 9, 1991. “The Battle Over Johnston Atoll.” The Washington Post.

Enewetak Atoll

Chris Shearer. Dec 28, 2020. “Remembering America's Forgotten Nuclear Cleanup Mission.” Vice.

“The Radiological Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll. March 2018. U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Dave Philipps. Jan 28, 2017. “Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care.” The New York Times.

Palomares, Spain Nuclear Accident

“New Federal Suit Filed Against VA on Behalf of Veterans Exposed to Radiation at Palomares Nuclear Cleanup.” November 1, 2021. Yale Law School Today.

Dave Philipps. June 19, 2016. “Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident.” The New York Times.

“Palomares Nuclear Weapons Accident: Revised Dose Evaluation Report.” April 2001. United States Air Force.

U.S. Department of Energy. February 1966 “U.S. Position on Minimizing Soil Removal.” U.S. Department of Energy Archives.

Thule, Greenland Nuclear Accident

Robert Mitchell. Jan 21, 2018. “Cataclysmic cargo: The hunt for four missing nuclear bombs after a B-52 crash.” The Washington Post.

MAAS v. U.S. 897 F.Supp. 1098 (1995). United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.

“Project Crested Ice: The Thule Nuclear Accident Volume 1 [SAC Historical Study 113].” June 1982. History and Research Division, Headquarters, Strategic Air Command.

Captain Robert E. McElwee. “Project Crested Ice: USAF B-52 Accident at Thule, Greenland, 21 January 1968.” U.S. Defense Technical Information Center.

South Carolina Nuclear “Storage”

Doug Pardue. May 21, 2017 (Updated Jun 28, 2021). “Deadly legacy: Savannah River site near Aiken one of the most contaminated places on Earth.” The Post & Courier.

Gulf War Illness

“What is Gulf War Syndrome?” Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“UTSW genetic study confirms sarin nerve gas as cause of Gulf War illness.” May 11, 2022. UT Southwestern Medical Center Newsroom.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

“Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims | Veteran Owned Law Firm.” The Carlson Law Firm on YouTube.

“Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Summary of the water contamination situation at Camp Lejeune.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Health effects linked with trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride exposure.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Camp Lejeune Water Contamination History.” Oct 18, 2009. St. Lawrence County Government.

St. Louis Area Nuclear Contamination

Chris Hayes. Jul 27, 2022. “Flooding around nuclear waste renews residents’ fears.” Fox 2 Now - St. Louis.

Jim Salter. Mar 19, 2022. “West Lake Landfill cleanup slowed after more nuclear waste found.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jesse Bogan. Dec 20, 2021. “Concerns linger as completion date for Coldwater Creek cleanup pushed to 2038.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Evaluation of Community Exposures Related to Coldwater Creek.” Apr 30, 2019. U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Robert Alvarez. February 11, 2016. “West Lake story: An underground fire, radioactive waste, and governmental failure.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“Westlake Landfill, Bridgeton, MO.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Atomic Homefront.” HBO Documentaries.

Hanford Waste Management Site

“Hanford’s Dirty Secret– and it’s not 56 million gallons of nuclear waste.” Jul 26, 2019. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Biden Drone Bombing

“'Cutting-edge technology used to eliminate Zawahiri.'” Aug 7, 2022. The Express Tribune.

Jon Stewart

People Staff. August 11, 2022. “Jon Stewart Shares His Emotional Reaction to Signing of Veterans Health Bill: 'I'm a Mess'” People.

Republican F*ckery

Ryan Cooper. Aug 3, 2022. “Republicans Just Exposed Their Greatest Weakness.” The American Prospect.

Jordain Carney and Anthony Adragna. August 1, 2022. “Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.” Politico.

“Roll Call 455 | H. J. Res. 114: To Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.” Oct 10, 2022. Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Foreign Wars No One Talks About

Ellen Knickmeyer. Jun, 16 2022. “GAO: US Failed to Track if Arms Used Against Yemen Civilians.”

Joseph R. Biden. June 08, 2022. “Letter to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate regarding the War Powers Report.” The White House.

Muhammad Fraser-Rahim. Oct 16, 2017. “The Deaths of Four Elite U.S. Soldiers in Niger Show Why Trump Must Wake Up on Terrorism in Africa.” Newsweek.

Overseas Contingency Operations

Emily M. Morgenstern. Updated August 13, 2021. “Foreign Affairs Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Funding: Background and Current Status” [IF10143 ]. Congressional Research Service.

Todd Harrison. Jan 11, 2017. “The Enduring Dilemma of Overseas Contingency Operations Funding.” Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Law

S. 3373: Honoring our PACT Act

Jen’s Highlighted PDF of S. 3373 - Final Version

Timeline of Votes and Changes

June 16, 2022 Senate Roll Call Vote

July 12, 2022. “Comparative Print: Bill to Bill Differences Comparing the base document BILLS-117hr3967eas.xml with BILLS-117S3373ES-RCP117-56.” U.S. House of Representatives.

July 13, 2022 House Roll Call Vote

July 27, 2022 Senate Roll Call Vote

August 1, 2022. “Amendments Submitted and Proposed.” Congressional Record -- Senate.

Audio Sources

President Biden signs the PACT Act, expanding healthcare for veterans exposed to toxins

August 10, 2022
PBS NewsHour on YouTube

"Justice has been delivered": Biden says top al-Qaeda leader killed in drone strike

August 1, 2022
Global News on YouTube

“Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims | Veteran Owned Law Firm.”

The Carlson Law Firm on YouTube

Senator Toomey on State of the Union with Jake Tapper

July 31, 2022


7:00 Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): Here's what you need to keep in mind, Jake. First of all, this is the oldest trick in Washington. People take a sympathetic group of Americans — it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals — craft a bill to address their problems, and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own and dare Republicans to do anything about it because they know they'll unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo-celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn't be there. That's what's happening here, Jake.

10:40 Jake Tapper: So one of the questions that I think people have about what you're claiming is a budgetary gimmick is, the VA budgets will always remain subject to congressional oversight, they can't just spend this money any way they want. And from how I read this legislation, it says that this money has to be spent on health care for veterans who suffered exposure from toxic burned pits. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): This is why they do this sort of thing, Jake, because it gets very deep in the weeds and very confusing for people very quickly. It's not really about veteran spending. It's about what category of government bookkeeping, they put the veterans spending in. My change, the honest people acknowledge it will have no effect on the amount of money or the circumstances under which the money for veterans is being spent. But what I want to do is treat it, for government accounting purposes, the way we've always treated it for government accounting purposes. Because if we change it to the way that the Democrats want, it creates room in future budgets for $400 billion of totally unrelated, extraneous spending on other matters.

Senator Toomey on Face the Nation with John Dickerson

July 31, 2022
CBS News


4:10 John Dickerson: 123 Republicans in the House voted for this, 34 Senate Republicans voted for it. Same bill. This week, the bill didn't change but the Republican votes did. Why? Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): Now, the Republican votes didn't change on the substance of the bill. Republicans have said we want an amendment to change a provision that has nothing to do with veterans health care. The Republicans support this. The Democrats added a provision that has nothing to do with veterans health care, and it's designed to change government accounting rules so that they can have a $400 billion spending spree.

6:25 Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): Honest Democrats evaluating this will tell you: if my amendment passes, not a dime change in spending on veterans programs. What changes is how the government accounts for it. John Dickerson: I understand, but the accounting change, as you know, is a result — the reason they put it in that other bucket is that it doesn't subject it to the normal triage of budgeting. And the argument is that the values at stake here are more important than leaving it to the normal cut and thrust of budgeting.

Jon’s Response To Ted Cruz’s PACT Act Excuses

July 29, 2022
The Problem with Jon Stewart on Youtube


00:20 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): What the dispute is about is the Democrats played a budgetary trick, which is they took $400 billion in discretionary spending and they shifted it to a mandatory one. Jon Stewart: What Ted Cruz is describing is inaccurate, not true, bulls ** t. This is no trick. Everything in the government is either mandatory or discretionary spending depending on which bucket they feel like putting it in. The whole place is basically a f * ing shell game. And he's pretending that this is some new thing that the Democrats pulled out, stuck into the bill, and snuck it past one Ted Cruz. Now I'm not a big-city Harvard educated lawyer, but I can read. It's always been mandatory spending so that the government can't just cut off their funding at any point. No trick, no gimmick, [it’s] been there the whole f**king time.

1:50 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): What's the Republicans made clear is, if we leave that spending as discretionary — don't play the budgetary trick — the bill will pass with 80 or 90 votes. Jon Stewart: I don't know how many other ways to say this, but there was no budgetary trick and it was always mandatory. And when they voted in the Senate on June 16, they actually got 84 votes. And you know who voted for that? Ted f*cking Cruz and every other one of those Republicans that switched their votes. There was no reason for them to switch the votes. The bill that passed the Senate 84 to 14 on June 16 has not had one word added to it by Democrats, or spending fairies, or anybody else. It's the same f*cking bill.

‘I Call Bullshit!’ Jon on the PACT Act Being Blocked in the Senate

July 28, 2022
The Problem with John Stewart on YouTube


3:20 Jon Stewart: June 16, they passed the PACT Act 84 to 14. You don't even see those scores in the Senate anymore. They passed it. Every one of these individuals that has been fighting for years, standing on the shoulders of Vietnam veterans who have been fighting for years, standing on the shoulders of Persian Gulf War veterans fighting for years, Desert Storm veterans, to just get the health care and benefits that they earn from their service. And I don't care if they were fighting for our freedom. I don't care if they were fighting for the flag. I don't care if they were fighting because they wanted to get out of a drug treatment center, or it was jail or the army. I don't give a shit. They lived up to their oath. And yesterday, they spit on it in abject cruelty. These people thought they could finally breathe. You think their struggles end because the PACT Act passes? All it means is they don't have to decide between their cancer drugs and their house. Their struggle continues. From the crowd: This bill does a lot more than just give us health care. Jon Stewart: It gives them health care, gives them benefits, lets them live. From the crowd: Keeps veterans from going homeless keeps veterans from become an addict, keeps veterans from committing suicide. Jon Stewart: Senator Toomey is not going to hear that because he won't sit down with this man. Because he is a fucking coward. You hear me? A coward.

5:15 Jon Stewart: Pat Toomey stood up there — Patriot Pat Toomey, excuse me, I'm sorry. I want to give him his propers, I want to make sure that I give him his propers. Patriot Pat Toomey stood on the floor and said “this is a slush fund, they're gonna use $400 billion to spend on whatever they want.” That's nonsense. I call bullshit. This isn't a slush fund. You know, what's a slush fund? The OSO, the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund. $60 billion, $70 billion every year on top of $500 billion, $600 billion, $700 billion of a defense budget. That's a slush fund, unaccountable. No guardrails? Did Pat Toomey stand up and say, this is irresponsible. The guard rails? No, not one of them. Did they vote for it year after year after year? You don't support the troops. You support the war machine.

7:10 Jon Stewart: And now they say, “Well, this will get done. Maybe after we get back from our summer recess, maybe during the lame duck…” because they're on Senate time. Do you understand? You live around here. Senate time is ridiculous. These motherfuckers live to 200 — they’re tortoises. They live forever and they never lose their jobs and they never lose their benefits and they never lose all those things. Well, [sick veterans are] not on Senate time. They're on human time. Cancer time.

8:20 Jon Stewart: I honestly don't even know what to say anymore. But we need your help, because we're not leaving. These people cannot go away. I don't know if you know this, you know, obviously, I'm not a military expert. I didn't serve in the military, but from what I understand, you're not allowed to just leave your post when the mission isn't completed. Apparently you take an oath, you swear an oath, and you can't leave, that these folks can leave because they're on Senate time. Go ahead, go home, spend time with your families, because these people can't do it anymore. So they can't leave until this gets done.

Senator Toomey PACT Act Amendment Floor Speech

July 26, 2022
Senate Session

Representative Mark Takano PACT Act Floor Speech

July 13, 2022
House Session

3:38:20 **Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA): The way this country has dealt with toxic exposure has been piecemeal and inadequate. President Biden recognizes this, too. Shortly after he was sworn in, I met with the President about our shared priorities for veterans. Upon learning of my goal to pass comprehensive legislation to help toxic-exposed veterans, the President leaned over to me and talked about his son, Beau, who served near burn pits in Iraq and Kosovo. It might be hard for most Americans to imagine what a burn pit looks like because they are illegal in the United States. Picture walking next to and breathing fumes from a burning pit the size of a football field. This pit contained everything from household trash, plastics, and human waste to jet fuel and discarded equipment burning day and night. Beau Biden lived near these burn pits and breathed the fumes that emanated from them. President Biden believes that con- stant exposure to these burn pits, and the toxic fumes they emitted, led to Beau’s cancer and early death. It was during that meeting when I knew I had a partner in President Biden.

Atomic Homefront

HBO Documentaries

“This Concrete Dome Holds A Leaking Toxic Timebomb.”

November 27, 2017
Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Foreign Correspondent

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

Music Presented in This Episode

Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito