NJ Senator Bob Menendez Calls For Expansion Of Veteran Health Care Benefits; Gun Safety Reform

Source: Hudson County View

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) includes New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez’s bill that improves benefits for Gulf War Veterans by expanding access. The legislation also addresses illnesses from exposure to toxic burn pits and expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam war.

Menendez explained the bill is named after Sgt. 1st class Heath Robinson, who was deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and died in 2020 of toxic exposure from his service.

Afghan and Iraq war veterans both also experienced similar issues, but Afghan veterans were not initially deemed eligible to be treated for Gulf War Illness by the VA.

The PACT Act would add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure conditions to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) list of issues they deem treatable and it would also increase federal research on toxic exposure and increase funding for the VA claims processing and healthcare facilities.

Michael Embrich
, a Navy veteran who joined after 9/11 and a Bayonne native, spoke about his personal experiences: “I returned to a government that was ill-equipped to meet the needs of return service members and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Post 9/11 veterans, poisoned from toxic exposure (of) things that they burned, got sick and were ignored. These illnesses take many years if not decades to become apparent.”

Additionally, Donza Taylor Sr., a veteran of both wars in Iraq, added, “We need our veteran staff trained. Inadequate training results in our vets being denied claims.”

Menendez also commented on gun safety reform and commended the work done by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), establishing a framework for a possible compromise bill.

“For 30 years, inaction and partisanship have dominated and defined Congress’ response to the rising gun violence epidemic,” he said.

“Every mass shooting is the result of a policy failure, and thoughts and prayers, while certainly welcome, don’t change that reality. We need for the Senate to take action.”

Menendez noted the details of a bill have not been worked out, but a framework has been agreed upon.

He said they agreed to establish red flag laws, prohibit individuals who committed domestic violence offenses from buying guns, and create new penalties for the illegal purchase and trafficking of guns.

“This agreement would break 30 years of logjam in Congress. I’ll continue fighting for reforms that could prevent mass shootings like banning high-capacity magazines, requiring universal background checks, and raising the age to buy assault weapons,” Menendez continued.

“There isn’t a single minute to waste in stopping the carnage of children. You don’t need 50 to 100 rounds to hunt down a deer.” Menendez said he’s also in favor of banning assault weapons from being sold.

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