Veteran activists site importance of extended PACT Act for veterans nationwide

The deadline for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits to apply for retroactive health benefits has been extended.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Department of Veterans Affairs extended the filing deadline for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits to receive retroactive health benefits.

The deadline was extended due to high call volumes and recent web issues.

It’s going to help thousands really millions of veterans across the nation. Here, we’ve already done 2,200 toxic exposure screens, half of those have been veterans that have been exposed to at least one environmental exposure. So that means that at least 1,100 veterans are now eligible for those benefits that they weren’t able to before,” says Sarah Dernovish, Public Affairs Officer, VA Easter KS Health Care System.

The ‘Honoring Our PACT Act’ was passed a year ago and expands health care for millions of Vietnam, Gulf War, and post 9/11 veterans exposed to burn pits, agent orange and other toxic materials on the battlefield.

Toxic exposure from burn pits commonly used on bases overseas during the war on terror have been linked to more than 20 illnesses and cancers.

“We had a high number of golf war veterans who came home and died from the brain cancers that are now service-connected. Now this opened up for those women and men who were the spouses of the veterans who died from the brain cancer but other cancers to, to get right now about $1,600 dollars a month to help support themselves,” says Jim Bunker, Executive Dir., Natl. Gulf War Resource Center.

The PACT Act is providing more access to healthcare services for veterans across the nation.

“We’re seeing the eligibility for VA healthcare really open up so primary care, specialty care, even prosthetic devices, hearing aids, assistive devices such as walkers, things like that, veterans can come in now and get all of those things now at no cost,” says Dernovish.

But veterans activist, Jim Bunker, says a lot still has to be done for veterans.

“We need to improve the Caregiver Act. VA made the regulation and tightened it down so that’s its harder for a spouse to stay home and take care of a severely injured veterans, those with traumatic brain injuries, those missing lots of limbs, made it almost impossible now for them to stay home like the Caregiver Act meant for that to be. When a nation shows that it takes care of those that go and put their selves in harms way to protect this country it will allow us to continue to have a great nation,” says Bunker.

The deadline to file was originally August 9th, but now you or a loved one have until Monday, August 14th.

To file a PACT Act claim, click here.