Arizona veterans respond to PACT Act being blocked in the Senate

Arizona Republican House members Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, and Debbie Lesko voted against the bill.
Published: Jul. 31, 2022 at 7:36 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Earlier this week, a bill that would have helped around 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic military burn pits was blocked in the Senate. The original PACT Act overwhelmingly passed through the Senate in June. It underwent minor changes and returned to the House, where it passed. But 25 senators switched their votes to the surprise and anger of many in Congress and across the country.

Scott Bourque is the Communications Director for AZ Vets Forward and a Navy veteran who was exposed to burn pits in Afghanistan for six months. “Picture a haboob coming through Phoenix,” Bourque said. “But also breathing in burning trash and diesel fumes the entire time.”

Bourque never had any breathing issues before his service. But after working in burn pits? “Had a persistent cough ever since,” he said. “I’ve been diagnosed with asthma, and I use an inhaler two to three times per day just to not wheeze.”

Bourque knows plenty of other veterans are in worse shape, experiencing issues ranging from liver problems to cancer. He remains optimistic that those exposed to burn pits will eventually get the healthcare they need. But after the Senate rejected this week’s PACT Act, Bourque isn’t confident it will be passed anytime soon.

“The fact that every Republican from Arizona in Congress and 40 however many GOP members decided that it’s cheaper to bury veterans than pay for their healthcare says a lot about what their priorities are. And that they just don’t care about us,” said Bourque.

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly (who voted for the PACT Act) said, “There is no good reason for this to have been blocked. It’s unacceptable and a disservice to veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

For Sandra Dowling, whose son Kyle served back-to-back tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps, that sacrifice ultimately cost Kyle his life. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him,” Dowling said.

Four months after Kyle’s death, Dowling discovered that he had been exposed to toxic chemicals. Now, she’s on a mission to make sure other veterans have access to toxic chemical screenings that could keep them alive. “Some of these veterans don’t have two months to wait for them to come back to recess,” Dowling said. “They will be dead.”

In the meantime, Dowling has this message for those who voted against the PACT Act. “It’s shameful, and it’s embarrassing,” she said. “I hope every one of those senators understands what they’ve done as far as embarrass themselves in front of the entire American people.”

While the PACT Act passed through the House before being voted down in the Senate, Arizona Republican House members Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, and Debbie Lesko voted against it.

We reached out to all of them for their thoughts on this act not passing through the Senate but did not get a response.