‘Tired of the government denying us’: Veterans pressure senators to vote for PACT Act during rally

San Antonio veterans and activists held a rally at VFW 67 downtown to pressure senators to pass the PACT Act, after nearly 25 Republicans blocked the bill on Thursday.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act, or PACT Act, would make it easier for veterans to access health care to treat their conditions that were a result of toxic exposure.

As it currently stands, veterans need to provide documentation and proof that their condition was the result of a toxic exposure, which can be difficult to prove.

The bill was expected to pass until 25 Republicans, including both Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, voted against it even though they voted for the bill a month earlier.

Sergeant Steven Price, who was at Sunday’s rally, said while he was serving the Army in Panama, the fields were sprayed with a pesticide called DDT.

“It’s in my blood. It’s literally slowly killing me,” Price said.

It’s been years since Price served, but the health effects of his toxic exposure have been long-lasting. Price suffers from chronic leukemia, among other health issues.

“I worry all the time about how much life I have left in me. I don’t know. Some of my friends have died from brain tumors, facial wounds,” Price said.

For now, veterans need to provide documentation and proof that their condition was the result of toxic exposure. The process can be difficult and take a long time, according to Micheal Toreno, who helps veterans get their claims processed at the VA.

Toreno was hoping that nearly a dozen of his veteran clients would have their health claims processed by the VA, when the bill was expected to be signed.

“I’ve been working with one veteran for 12 months. He was denied previously five times… we’re finally getting to the point that it’s just a waiting disposition,” Toreno said.

Toreno said the Republicans who voted against the bill have made generations of veterans wait longer.

Price said time is running out.

“There’s so many that are waiting in line to get help that they die while they’re waiting. They die while they’re waiting or they die from suicide because they’re tired of waiting and they’re tired of the government denying us,” Price said.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey led the group of Republican senators in delaying the passage of the bill.

Sen. Toomey said he was not okay with the way the money was categorized, which he said would allow for unauthorized use for other things.

Toomey has proposed an amendment, but opponents say it would put a cap on what the VA can spend, and would not allow all vets to be treated.

Senators are set to vote on this bill again on Tuesday.

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