The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Celebrates the Signing of the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 8, 2022
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) will have staff and surviving families of toxic exposure in attendance at the White House on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, to witness President Joe Biden sign the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into law. This historic bill ensures veterans of multiple generations who were exposed to burn pits, toxins, and airborne hazards while deployed are provided immediate, lifelong access to VA health care and benefits.
As the leading voice for the families of those who died as a result of illnesses connected to toxic exposure and a founding member and co-chair of the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition, TAPS worked with Members of Congress and fellow veteran service organizations to help introduce and pass this historic legislation.
TAPS is grateful to Chairmen Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Takano (D-CA) and Ranking Members Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Bost (R-IL) of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs for their leadership on the PACT Act, which passed the House and Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan vote and the support of more than 60 veteran and military organizations. We are also grateful to the leadership of the House and the Senate, the Biden Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jon Stewart, John Feal, and veteran and survivor advocates for their tireless work seeing this bill through.
“The passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act ensures that veterans who have selflessly served in defense of freedom and the families who have stood by their side know now that America will stand with them as they fight for their lives, and stand with their families should they not survive this final battle,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder.
For nearly three decades, TAPS has provided hope, healing, and resources to all those grieving the death of a military loved one, of all relationships and causes of death and has been the leading organization for those who lost a loved one to service connected illnesses. In 2021, nearly 10,000 newly bereaved military survivors came to TAPS for care. Thirty-one percent were grieving the death of a loved one to illness, surpassing all other circumstances of death, including hostile action.
“The PACT ACT will provide the care our veterans and their families, and survivors deserve,” said Kimberly Hughes, surviving spouse of Army Major Gary Hughes who died from stage four stomach and liver cancers after being exposed to open burn pits while stationed in Afghanistan. “Because of this important legislation our veterans who came home sick or have died can now have some peace.”
For survivors like Coleen Bowman and her late husband Sergeant Major Robert Bowman, early detection may have provided precious family time and produced a different outcome.
“Had we known Rob had been exposed, and to what toxins, we could have shared the information with doctors, and it wouldn’t have taken six months of misdiagnoses before we learned he had stage 4 inoperable cancer. Had we known earlier, he might still be alive today,” said Coleen. “That is why my family and I are extremely grateful for the passage of the PACT Act. Simply put, this bill will save lives.”
The bill signing will fall on Agent Orange Awareness Day, the 61st anniversary of when the deadly compound was first used in Vietnam and American troops were first exposed.
“A key component of this legislation was using the lessons learned from our Vietnam veterans and their surviving families,” said Claire Henline, surviving daughter of LTC William Henline IV who died from cancer related to Agent Orange exposure. “It’s extremely meaningful to know our experiences played a role in making a difference for the current generation of veterans and their families as well as the generations to come.”
To request an interview with TAPS President and Founder, Bonnie Carroll, or a surviving family member of toxic exposure, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (202) 588-TAPS (8277) to speak with someone on the TAPS Communications team.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the leading national organization providing compassionate care and survivor support services for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since 1994, TAPS has offered support to all those grieving the death of a military loved one through peer-based emotional support, connections with grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, casework assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline, all at no cost to surviving families. For more information, please visit TAPS.org or call 202.588.TAPS (8277).