CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Despite drafting parts of the bill to protect veterans and their health, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis voted against it.
On Friday, he sat down with Queen City News to explain why he voted ‘no’ for the PACT Act. The bill passed through the senate this week with bi-partisan support, and only eleven senators voted against it.
Tillis said although he supports the overall goal of the legislation, which provides healthcare to millions of veterans, he says there are significant flaws in its planned implementation.
“One of the things that’s wrong with Washington is they get so caught up on what they want to do; they don’t spend the time on how to do it. I’m worried that we’re making a promise that we’re not going to keep,” Tillis said.
Tillis, who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, said even the VA Secretary himself noted that this bill would have challenges and be difficult to implement.
“I think it’s one of the reasons why three members of the VA committee who are closest to what it’s going to take to implement it voted against it too,” Tillis said.
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Now that the PACT Act has officially passed, 86-11, Tillis is prepared to tackle issues that could arise.
“I’m absolutely convinced that we’re going to have to come back in the next congress and do a lot of work to make sure that veterans do not have unacceptable wait times to make sure that veterans who are already in the line trying to get care, over 160,000 of them, are also not swept up into a failed implementation,” Tillis said.
The ‘Honoring Our PACT Act’ expands healthcare to 3.5 million American veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits post 9-11. The bill also covers health benefits for other veterans exposed to chemicals during their service, even before 9-11.
Sally Stenton, an attorney who also served in the Airforce, supports the PACT Act.
“This covers everybody. So I think if you were in the navy on board a ship, if you were in an aircraft, they are not making the same mistake. The VA is not making the same mistake that they made for the Vietnam veterans, which I think is great,” Stenton said.
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Stenton, who served in Afghanistan, is glad this bill gained bipartisan support.
“I think it’s good that congress finally came together as public servants, not as politicians take care of the veterans,” Stenton said.
Steven Cole, an Army veteran who also served in Afghanistan, hopes this bill will show veterans that their government cares about their well-being.
“We asked young people to serve their country in uniform and do it in harsh conditions all over the world all the time. And it’s the responsibility of our communities to take those veterans when they come home and take the uniform off to integrate them into our community, and taking care of their health after service is part of that. And it’s a big part of the promise that we’ve made to these people,” Cole said.
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