SAN ANGELO, Texas — President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act to strengthen healthcare and benefits for America's veterans and their survivors.
Luis Martinez, Assistant Director of the San Angelo Veteran Affairs, says older and newer generations of the armed forces joined together to get Biden to pass the PACT Act.
Veterans who fell victim to toxic exposures and burn pits will finally be getting benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to help pay for their conditions.
“The younger generation learned from the lessons of the Vietnam veterans. They didn’t want to be in that same situation. So it was a team effort. Older and younger veterans all pulling together to fight it. Then just contacting the congressmen and women and say, hey, we need this. It took years and finally it passed,” Martinez explained.
Breathing in toxic fumes lead to many veterans and 9/11 survivors to end up with major health issues including chronic sinusitis, rhinitis and chronic bronchitis.
With this new law, if a veteran was denied a disability claim in the past, they are able to reapply and have another chance to get the help they need.
According to the Veteran Affairs website, here are the improvements the act will bring.
Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care
Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
Since the law was passed, Martinez says the VA has received hundreds of calls with people asking for help.
This act will benefit not only victims, but families who have been affected by their loved ones' conditions.
“If you apply for benefits now and you get service connected for these issues. If something happens later down the road and you pass away from these conditions, those turn into survivor benefits for your family. We don't want to leave your family out. So that's why this bill is huge and it's important to all of us,” Martinez continued.
If you're a veteran or survivor, more information on how to apply for the PACT Act can be found at VA.gov.