WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Sarbanes today joined Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, and Anthony G. Brown (all D-Md.) in applauding President Biden's signing of legislation to open two veterans' outpatient clinics in Baltimore and Prince George's County. The bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) provides healthcare benefits for all generations of toxic-exposed veterans for the first time in the nation's history and will improve access to care for all those who served in our nation's armed forces.
The lawmakers fought to include authorization and funding for the two Maryland veterans' health clinics – one in the Baltimore region and another in Prince George's County. $43 million will support the construction of a new Baltimore Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), which will replace and expand the outpatient services currently provided at the existing Baltimore VA Clinic Annex on Fayette Street while reducing the strain on the Baltimore VA Medical Center. $32 million is set aside for the construction of a Prince George's CBOC; this new facility will be significantly larger than the existing clinic in the southern part of the county and represent a major upgrade for area veterans, as the new clinic will be equipped to provide services beyond the capabilities of the current clinic as well as the Southeast D.C. CBOC.
"As the Honoring Our PACT Act becomes law today, it delivers on our promises to the veterans who have selflessly served this nation. This legislation extends critical benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances in the line of duty and expands access to care for veterans nationwide, including by improving Maryland's network of Community Based Outpatient Clinics," said Congressman John Sarbanes. "I am pleased that President Biden has signed this landmark bill into law today."
"We've got to keep our promises to veterans who put themselves as risk to serve our country, and that includes ensuring they have access to high-quality health care. The bipartisan PACT Act does just that – ensuring every veteran exposed to burn pits or other toxins gets first class care and provides $75 million for the VA to expand and upgrade its network of veterans out-patient clinics in Maryland," said Senator Chris Van Hollen. "This is a big win for our communities and a critical step forward in improving access to quality health care for veterans across our nation."
"Maryland veterans served this nation with honor and they deserve access to top-notch health care services in a timely and convenient manner," said Senator Ben Cardin. "Providing health care benefits to the thousands of American veterans exposed to toxins emanating from burn pits is essential. Expanding the network of Community Based Outpatient Clinics available to Baltimore area veterans and greatly upgrading the facilities and services for veterans within Prince George's County will bring much needed, state-of-the-art health care services within easier reach for all veterans who call Maryland home."
"This historic piece of legislation will have a significant impact on the lives of Prince George's County veterans, improving the quality of their health care and ensuring that they receive the benefits and services they deserve. I am glad that President Biden has signed this historic bill into law, and I look forward to witnessing the positive difference it will make in the Fifth District and throughout the state of Maryland," said Congressman Steny Hoyer.
"Our veterans deserve state-of-the-art healthcare in state-of-the-art facilities," Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger said. "They also deserve a healthcare system that is accessible and convenient. This new clinic will help us deliver on all of these promises and I am proud of the team effort that went into making it happen for our local veterans."
"If you put your life on the line abroad to protect Americans' freedoms at home, you deserve to be taken care of both during and after your military service," said Congressman Kweisi Mfume. "I'm proud to have supported the Honoring Our PACT Act, which furthers our nation's commitment to our brave servicemembers by guaranteeing that their health needs will always be met no matter the circumstances."
"We make a sacred promise to our servicemembers when they return home - to provide our veterans with the best health care our country has to offer. Critical to upholding that promise, is a commitment to access in the communities our veterans live in," said Congressman Anthony Brown. "This legislation and funding will help meet Maryland veterans where they are and provide the quality care that they deserve. We'll never stop fighting for the brave men and women who have served and we'll always have their backs."
"I want to thank Senator Van Hollen and the members of our Federal Delegation for pushing forward this important legislation. Prince George's County is home to more than 60,000 veterans, the highest number in our state, and we must continue to do all we can to ensure that they have access to the quality healthcare they need and deserve. Providing a new and improved CBOC will ensure that they can receive that care close to home in a facility with all the resources they need for high quality, comprehensive healthcare," said Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
"Baltimore's veterans are essential to our vibrant and diverse communities, and they deserve access to the best health care we can offer. I am grateful to our incredible federal delegation and the Biden Administration for reaffirming our shared commitment to our veterans by opening a new outpatient clinic right here in Baltimore. These brave women and men have gone above and beyond in service to our country, and now they can get the care they need close to home. The PACT Act is a win for Baltimore and veterans across our nation," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott.
"Taking care of our veterans is a moral imperative, and this funding will go a long way toward improving services for veterans from around the Baltimore region. I'm grateful to Senator Van Hollen and all of our members of Congress for their efforts to bring these resources to the region and to support the men and women who have served our country," said Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr.
Additional Background on the Baltimore and Prince George's County CBOC Plans
For the Baltimore CBOC, this legislation provides for a lease of an approximately 112,624 square foot outpatient clinic, including 800 parking spaces. The new facility would enable VA to enhance outpatient services and provide more primary care space than is currently available at the Baltimore VA Clinic Annex.
For the Prince George's County clinic, the PACT Act provides for a lease of an approximately 85,116 square foot outpatient clinic, including 600 parking spaces. The new facility would enable VA to accommodate the workload that the Southern Prince George's County and Southeast D.C. CBOCs currently service, which has increased since the closure of the Greenbelt CBOC in 2015, and allow more patients to receive care closer to their homes.
Both clinics will allow for the full implementation of the Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) model of care delivery, improving operational efficiencies and the veteran experience. They will be state-of-the-art, energy-efficient health care facilities offering primary care, mental health, specialty care, and ancillary services to veterans.
About the PACT Act
Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard. He died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service. Among its many priorities, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:
- Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
- Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
- Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA's list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
- Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure;
- Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
- Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
- Improve VA's resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
- VA claims processing;
- VA's workforce; and
- VA health care facilities.
- Establish 31 new VA health care facilities across 19 states, including the two in Maryland.