OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma veterans have started sounding off about failed legislation that would have expanded benefits for 3.5 million veterans. The bill, called the Honor Our PACT Act, was meant to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
For Gary Grimes, this has become both personal and professional. He is a veteran, has three children in the military and currently works for the Dale K. Graham Foundation. The foundation has been helping veterans receive the benefits they deserve. The failed legislation has been a set back for thousands that Grimes works with firsthand.
“I am frustrated that we have this situation,” said Grimes. “I think that’s the biggest thing to say is frustration.”
Grimes said more than one-third of all veterans that his foundation sees has suffered from chronic illnesses after breathing toxic fumes from burn pits. It happened while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also included those affected by Agent Orange while in Vietnam.
“My oldest son and my youngest daughter were both in Afghanistan at the same time, and they were exposed to burn pits,” said Grimes.
The bill initially passed both the House and Senate back in June but wording in the bill meant it had to go back before both the House and Senate again, for a second time.
Twenty-five senators who once gave the bill their support, reversed course and voted against it Wednesday, including U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK.
Inhofe said the reason why he flipped was because he wanted other legislation passed first before the PACT Act.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, voted against the bill both in June and this week. He said it would increase the waiting period of veteran care.
Regardless, Grimes said veterans and what they’ve done for our country should always be a top priority.
“One in five veterans alive today are impacted by this bill,” said Grimes. “It is important that it gets passed.”
The Senate is expected to vote again on the PACT Act on Monday.
If you are a veteran and you have questions about what to do now, you can find information on the Dale K. Graham Foundation here.