NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Tuesday joined with Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (NJ-9), and Korean American Vietnam War veterans to demand that the U.S. Senate immediately pass the bipartisan PACT Act to expand access to care and benefits for our brave veterans exposed to burn pits and toxic substances.
They also demanded that Congress pass a bipartisan provision, known as the VALOR Act. It will give thousands of South Korean immigrants who fought in the Vietnam War for the Korean Armed Forces alongside Americans and have become U.S. citizens, access to the same critical medical and home health care that other veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For decades, veterans of Allied Forces from World Wars I and II have been able to enroll in VA healthcare. But veterans of the Republic of Korea who fought with Americans in the Vietnam War are denied these same benefits. Since these veterans are now U.S. citizens, they receive very limited help from the South Korea government.
Gottheimer urging the Senate to pass the PACT Act comes after last month’s House passage, which included Gottheimer’s critical bipartisan provision to address the mental health impacts of toxic exposure for veterans. The PACT Act will secure benefits and care for Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan-era veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving overseas. The bill will expand the VA’s benefits and services to roughly 3.5 million veterans. Unfortunately, 25 Senators recently voted to block the passage of the PACT Act.
“I am here to strongly urge my Senate colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stop playing partisan games with the health and lives of our Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan-era veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic chemicals – and to please do the right thing and pass the PACT act this week. Our veterans are sick and dying,” Gottheimer said. “Whether it’s Vietnam War or Afghanistan veterans, I can’t think of anything more un-American than putting party before the health and care of our nation’s veterans — the very people who risked their lives, left their families behind while they went to fight, and made unimaginable sacrifices so that all of us can be safe and free here at home.”
“Please know this: as Korean American Vietnam War veterans who’ve sacrificed so much, you should never struggle to get the care or recognition you have earned fighting arm in arm with Americans in Vietnam. No veteran should. That’s why we are here to fight for the passage of the VALOR Act for our Korean American Vietnam Veterans,” Gottheimer said.
Gottheimer was joined by Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Korean American Vietnam War Veterans from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, Veteran Advocate, U.S.A.F. Cold War Veteran, and 2342 VFW member Barbara St. Martin Cho, Esq., Executive Director of Bilingual Veterans’ Outreach Centers of Mass, Inc., Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National Minority Affairs Committee Chair, and Vietnam and career U.S. Army Veteran Gumersindo Gomez, Founder & Commander Emeritus of the Korean American Vietnam War Veterans of Fort Lee, VVA National Minority Affairs Committee Member, ROK Army Vietnam Veteran and U.S. Army Veteran, and 2342 VFW Trustee of Fort Lee NJ Kee Jung Kim, Korean War Vet 1st Marine Division, 2342 VFW Judge Advocate, Officer of the Day, & longest serving active post member, Commander MASH Northern Valley Chapter and Leonia American Legion Albert J. Gonzales, New Jersey State Senator Gordon Johnson, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee Councilmember Harvey Sohmer, Fort Lee Councilmember Paul Yoon, Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz, Bergen County Clerk John Hogan, Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton, Bergen County Veterans Coordinator Shawn Hutchinson, and John Hwang of the Korean American Association of Fort Lee.