COLORADO SPRINGS — On Tuesday evening, celebration broke out in the nation's capitol by veterans who have long awaited the day the PACT Act would pass.
After a brief stalemate, the bill passed in the United States Senate 86-11, expanding health care benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic air bleeding from burn pits during their time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
One Army Veteran in Colorado Springs, Veronica Landry, is among those whose lives were changed forever as a result of the burn pits.
"My lungs, they looked like a long term smoker and I had never smoked in my life," said Landry, describing her terminal lung conditions which doctors believe is linked to burn pit exposure.
Landry has settled a lawsuit for her medical problems and will not see a dime as a result of the PACT Act, but she has still advocate for its passage for years.
"I feel like veterans now will be taken seriously when they walk into a provider's office and say 'Look, I don't know why I feel this way. I don't know why it's harder to breathe. I don't know why I have this pain here or there, I don't know why I have this terrible headache. I don't know why, but ever since I came back my health has deteriorated and I don't know why'."
The White House says the PACT Act is "the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years".
Although Landry says this is a step in the right direction, she knows the veterans who have already lost their lives to illnesses as a result of burn pit exposure are never coming back.
"The biggest lesson of all is when our send our service members into war, you better be prepared to pay for what happens when they return."
Federal funds are supposed to be allocated for the PACT Act in 2023.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law by August 8.
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