Veterans groups will be spending this Memorial Day weekend rallying in Washington, D.C., for the passage of newly unveiled legislation that would expand healthcare access for veterans suffering from toxin exposure.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, along with several other groups, will be rallying for the Senate to pass the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act on Saturday at the RFK Stadium Fairground at 1 p.m.


Television personality and activist Jon Stewart will be in attendance, as well as representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project, Freeload Foundation, Burn Pits 360, AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, Reserve Organization of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Burn pits were often used to incinerate waste ranging from mundane trash and munitions to hazardous material and chemical compounds at military sites in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ensuing toxins have been viewed as this generation's Agent Orange, which was a powerful herbicide that the United States used during the Vietnam War.

The military stopped doing this slightly more than a decade ago, according to CNN.

The leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee announced last week a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive legislation that will provide toxin-exposed veterans with healthcare and benefits. Party leaders and the Biden administration negotiated for more than a year before a deal was reached.

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will expand Veterans Affairs healthcare eligibility for post-9/11 combat veterans, 3.5 million of which were exposed to toxins; create a framework for the establishment of future similar services; strengthen federal research on toxin exposure; improve the VA’s resources and expand related conditions to the VA’s list of service presumptions.

The deal also mandates the VA to set up 31 major medical clinics nationwide and hire thousands more staffers, according to the Military Times.

“For far too long, our nation’s veterans have been living with chronic illnesses as a result of exposures during their time in uniform,” Committee Chairman John Tester (D-MT) and ranking member Jerry Moran (R-KS) said in a joint statement.

Following the announced deal, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre called it “an important step.”


The legislation “will not only help deliver more timely access to benefits and services for veterans and their survivors, it will also ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs can act more nimbly to add future presumptive conditions when the evidence warrants," she added. "And, the legislation will help [the] VA provide our veterans the level of service they deserve.” 

President Joe Biden in a speech stumping for this legislation in March referenced his son Beau, an Iraq War veteran who died of cancer in 2015, as one possible victim of the effects of burn pits. He called for increased funding for VA research to study the health effects of toxin exposure in the military, an effort that has drawn bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.