WASHINGTON DC — Beginning this weekend, service members who have been exposed to toxic combustion sources overseas will now have access to expanded disability benefits.
The Department of Veterans Affairs implements the new PACT law and it extends VA health care eligibility to those specific veterinarians.
“We fought an uphill battle to get the PACT Act passed, but it was really just to get to the starting line here,” said Amanda Barbosa, a former enlisted soldier and wife of a veteran.
The starting line for veterans who live with serious health problems after being exposed to fireplaces.
Amanda Barbosa’s husband is one of them and he is now battling stage 4 colon cancer.
She said that while their VA experience has been positive, she believes the PACT Act will make it a reality for others as well.
Starting this weekend, veterans of the Vietnam War, Gulf Wars and post-9/11 era will be eligible for additional care and benefits.
If veterans have one of more than 20 listed conditions, the VA will simply assume their service caused it.
“This is an unprecedented piece of legislation that is going to impact millions of veterans, so it’s big business, but I believe the VA is ready,” Barbosa said.
This month, the VA launched a pilot program which examined more than 13,000 veterans. Officials found that a third of them were worried about the exposure.
The agency said these findings will help it expand screenings to all vets in November.
Barbosa said it wasn’t the end.
“I’m just making sure that we veterans know that we didn’t just pass a bill and now we’re walking away,” she said. “We’re here with you to make sure you receive all the benefits you’ve earned.”
The VA said eligible veterans have a one-year window to enroll and it will begin processing those services in January.
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