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Veterans encouraged to apply for ‘significant expansion’ of PACT Act benefits

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — It has been called the most significant expansion of veteran benefits in more than a century.

The “PACT Act” opened benefits to veterans from Vietnam through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Navy Veteran Mark McAdams helped liberate Kuwait during the First Gulf War.

Decades later, he and others feel the physical effects of burn pits.

Fires raged -- burning unknown toxic chemicals that filled the desert air.

“I contracted cancer, esophageal cancer,” McAdams said. “I really can’t say if it impacted me or not-- but at the same time, possibility does exist.”

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He also said he is working through the PACT Act process to check eligibility for benefits.

Jason Althouse, Veterans Services Officer for Seminole County, said the PACT Act is the most expansive legislation he has seen during his career.

“More health-related benefits, faster health care for serious conditions, and disability compensation,” he said.

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Seminole County’s Veterans Outreach works to help veterans like McAdams navigate through the VA and understand how they can receive burn pit benefits for the first time.

“I’m grateful that it’s there -- For the people that were actually frontline,” Althouse said.

Beyond the PACT Act, Veterans Outreach said they want to ensure veterans know all available benefits.

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“Anybody that has any relation to the family --we can help with VA matters,” they said.” We can help with burial matters; we can help with getting discharged documents.”

McAdams said the help he has received is fantastic.

“There are benefits out there through the VA that I had no idea,” he said.

Veterans Outreach said they have plans of expanding their office.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.