SPRINGFIELD — On Friday, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal joined U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials, local veterans’ service officers, and members of the Western Mass. veteran community to highlight the PACT Act that was signed into law by President Biden on Aug. 10, 2022.
“When our servicemembers return home, many of them are confronted with a new set of challenges stemming from a service-connected disability or disease. For those struggling with complications resulting from toxic exposure, it has been difficult to treat not only due to the lack of coverage, but because, unlike a physical disability, it is not something others can see,” Neal said. “Now, with the PACT Act, we have finally delivered the care and treatment that these men and women deserve.
“We owe it to our veteran community to provide them with the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation,” he went on. “Toxic exposure is a cost of war, and our country must uphold its promise to our veterans by recognizing it as such and paying the bill. With the PACT Act, veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances during their service are now able to access the proper treatment.”
The PACT Act marks the largest expansion of veteran healthcare and benefits in generations, extending health coverage to more than 5 million veterans exposed to harmful chemicals from burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic sources. In addition, the PACT Act adds more than 20 new conditions presumed to be service-connected due to various in-service toxic exposures and requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA healthcare. The PACT Act also provides resources to the VA to help improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures.
“The PACT Act is a historic new law that expands VA healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. We have coordinated multiple outreach and awareness events, such as this one, in efforts to empower veterans to take advantage of expanded healthcare eligibility and benefits authorized by the PACT Act,” VA Central Western Massachusetts (CWM) Director Duane Gill said. “VA CWM is here for our nation’s veterans, including those not enrolled in VA healthcare and those who choose to receive their care in the community, and encourage all veterans not enrolled in VA healthcare to apply for their PACT Act benefits.”
With more than 27,000 new hires in the first six months of the fiscal year, the highest hiring level in the history of the VA, coupled with additional funding and resources authorized by the PACT Act, veterans are promptly receiving treatment. As of May 21, 2023, nearly 600,000 PACT Act claims have been filed with the VA, and more than 3.5 million veterans have received the VA’s new toxic-exposure screenings since the PACT Act was signed into law.
Veterans can apply or learn more about the PACT Act by visiting va.gov/pact or by calling (800) MYVA411.