WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to educate vets who were exposed to toxins during their time in the military. The VA is calling it the “PACT Act Week of Action” at facilities across the country. It starts Saturday December 10th. It stems from legislation President Joe Biden signed in August.
Toxic fumes from burn pits often filled the air in recent war zones. They may have caused health problems for nearly 3.5 million servicemembers.
It’s the reasoning behind the PACT Act. The legislation says if you have one of more than twenty listed conditions, you no longer have to prove anything. The VA is going to presume it was caused by your service to our country, which means you get benefits including money, education and healthcare.
“Various individuals, various veterans passed away fighting for these benefits,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes, said.
The mission is personal for him.
“Being a veteran myself, an Iraq war veteran, this has touched me, touched some of my battle buddies,” he said.
So far, the agency has received 146,000 PACT Act-related claims. It’s already hired 2,000 people to judge them. They might hire an additional 2,000, as well.
We asked if the VA has enough people to handle this.
“We know that it’s going to be a tall task, but this is something that we’re up to do and why we’re up to do that is because these men and women fought for our country,” Hayes said.
Veterans have told us they’ve been put through the ringer to try to get their benefits in the past and are skeptical about this process.
“That’s totally understandable,” Hayes responded. “There are veterans that have been denied time and time again and we are studying that.”
Officials want veterans to file their claims now, so everything is ready to go in January when they start looking through them.
“Toxic-exposed veterans have waited entirely too long to receive the benefits that they’ve earned and we’re here to provide those benefits now,” Hayes added.
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