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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

The U.S. House passed a bill to increase benefits for veterans exposed to toxins

Graphic: Montana news from Montana Public Radio

A technical revision to a bill expanding benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxins passed the U.S. House on July 14.

Back in March, Montana Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale voted against the bill to increase benefits and services for veterans suffering health problems associated with burn pits.

He said then it would create a huge claims backlog and result in "undirected" use of the VA’s resources.

Changes made since then in the U.S. Senate appears to have appeased Rosendale’s initial concerns, who voted this week to support the bill. He says the latest version generally increases transparency, provides flexibility and keeps pace with scientific advancements for toxic exposure.

Rosendale says he doesn’t support everything in the revised bill, but adds: “Our veterans have waited far too long to receive the help that they were promised. And it's far past time for Congress to stop screwing around, breaking our own rules while America’s veterans suffer and literally die.”

The burn pit legislation sailed out of the U.S. Senate last month with the support of both Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines. But the last-minute discovery of a procedural blunder delayed its glidepath to President Joe Biden’s expected signature.

The Senate will have to vote again because of this week’s technical fix to the bill, but its essence is the same as the one passed in June.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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