Chairman Lynch Applauds House Passage of the Honoring our PACT Act

Mar 3, 2022
Press Release
Legislation would provide benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic hazards at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan after September 11, 2001

Washington, D.C. (March 3, 2022)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, released the following statement applauding passage of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act, or the Honoring our PACT Act, by the U.S. House of Representatives.  The legislation will grant health and disability benefits to veterans—including thousands who served at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan after September 11, 2001—and are now battling cancer and other debilitating illnesses related to their exposure to environmental hazards during their service. 

 

In 2020, Chairman Lynch led an investigation that uncovered evidence that servicemembers who deployed to K2 between 2001 and 2005 were exposed to multiple dangerous toxins, including jet fuels and petrochemicals in the soil, burn pits, depleted uranium, hazardous airborne particulate matter, and other cancer-causing chemicals.

 

As a nation, we have a solemn responsibility to care for our men and women in uniform who return home with the physical and emotional scars of war, so I applaud today’s passage of the Honoring our PACT Act, which would streamline how the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes toxic exposure-related illnesses and disabilities and determines veteran eligibility for service-connected benefits,” said Chairman Lynch.  “I am especially grateful that this important legislation would establish a presumptive service-connection for the more than 15,000 servicemembers who deployed to Karshi-Khanabad (K2)—a former Soviet air base in southern Uzbekistan—following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  

 

As Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, I led a year-long investigation that found that while at K2, our servicemembers were exposed to multiple toxic hazards and cancer-causing chemicals.  I am grateful for my constituent, Ms. Kim Brooks of Norwood, Massachusetts, for her tireless advocacy in support of all K2 veterans – including her late husband, Lt. Col. Timothy Brooks – and thank the Stronghold Freedom Foundation and all K2 veterans for their invaluable contributions to the Subcommittee’s investigation.

 

Unfortunately, the VA continues to deny that a causal relationship exists between the toxic hazards that our investigation uncovered at K2 and the adverse health outcomes that so many of our K2 veterans continue to battle to this day.  As a result, many K2 veterans and their families have been unable to receive the health care and disability benefits they have earned and deserve.   

 

The Honoring Our PACT Act will remedy this wrong, and I am thankful to Chairman Takano and the Committee on Veterans Affairs for including our nation’s K2 veterans in this critical legislation.” 

 

During the Subcommittee’s investigation, Chairman Lynch held two hearings on the effects of toxic exposures on K2 veterans and introduced legislation that would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a study on the health effects of prior service at K2.  A similar provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

 

As a result of the Subcommittee’s investigation, in April 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) confirmed that it would take action to help address the concerns of K2 veterans and their families, including by designing a new epidemiological study to investigate health trends among K2 veterans.  

 

In February 2021, Chairman Lynch introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to require the VA to establish a “presumption of service connection” for veterans who served at K2 and have since been diagnosed with exposure-related illnesses and diseases.

 

###

117th Congress