It Is Estimated That 3.5 Million Individuals May Be Eligible To Claim New Health Care Benefits
Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York State Senator Robert Rolison, Assemblymember Didi Barrett, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson, Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois, VA Hudson Valley Health Care Director Dawn Schaal, and local veterans visited the Castle Point VA Medical Center to highlight the implementation of the recently passed Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. Passed in 2022, the PACT Act included Gillibrand’s signature legislation to establish a presumptive service connection to certain illnesses for service members and veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins, eliminating many obstacles they have to go through to receive crucial health care and benefits. It is estimated that roughly 3.5 million military personnel could have been exposed to burn pits and are eligible to receive benefits.
During her visit, Gillibrand and staff members helped veterans exposed to burn pits learn how they can access and apply for these new benefits.
“When the PACT Act was signed into law, it created one of the most significant benefits expansions in VA history,” said Senator Gillibrand.“Today, I’m visiting the Castle Point VA Medical Center to ensure our vets across the Hudson Valley have the information and assistance needed to take full advantage of these new health care and disability benefits. I fought tooth and nail to secure these benefits and now my office is here to help make the implementation process of the PACT Act as smooth as possible.”
“The Federal government must always live up to its promise of caring for any injuries our brave military members and veterans sustained while in service. Unfortunately, the government had not been fulfilling its obligation to treat those exposed to toxic substances from burn pits and other sources. That is why I am grateful to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for passing the PACT Act to ensure our service members receive the critical care and resources they need. It is the very least the government can do for these heroes,” said Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson.
“This timely legislation will provide our veterans with the benefits and resources they deserve. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for her leadership and hard work. We owe it to those who have sacrificed on behalf of our nation to provide for them in times of need,” said State Senator Rob Rolison (39th District).
“The PACT Act is a game changer for veterans across our region, whether or not they know they have experienced toxic exposure. In the Hudson Valley, our VA hospitals and veterans service offices have already been helping veterans access the benefits made available through the critical PACT Act. As the past chair of the New York State Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee, I have worked hard to ensure our veterans and military families have access to all the resources they need and have earned. I am grateful to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her longtime work on behalf of our military men and women and her tireless advocacy for this bill.” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett.
Applying for Benefits FAQ
- How can I submit a claim?: Eligible veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances can submit a claim at VA.gov/PACT.
- What if I was previously denied?: The PACT Act expanded eligibility for VA health care and benefits, so even if you were previously denied coverage, you may now be eligible. Submit a supplemental claim to get the health care and benefits you deserve at VA.gov/PACT.
- Who is covered under the new law?:
- Veterans who served in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or the UAE on or after Aug. 2, 1990
- Veterans who served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, or Uzbekistanon or after Sept. 11, 2001
- What illnesses are covered?: A wide range of cancers and respiratory illnesses are covered, including: asthma diagnosed after service, head cancer of any type, neck cancer of any type, respiratory cancer of any type, gastrointestinal cancer of any type, reproductive cancer of any type, lymphoma cancer of any type, lymphomatic cancer of any type, kidney cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, emphysema, granulomatous disease, interstitial lung disease, pleuritis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, pancreatic cancer, chronic sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, and glioblastoma.
- What benefits can I expect to be covered?: Just like the Vietnam veterans who fell ill from their exposure to Agent Orange, under this law, anyone deployed to one of the 16 identified countries during the Gulf War and Global War on Terror (listed above) who falls ill with one of the listed conditions will be able to go to the VA and get a disability rating. Depending on the rating, the veteran may be eligible for disability compensation. They are also entitled to free VA health care for their illness.
- What if I have additional questions?:
- Schedule an appointment with a VA benefits specialist: vets.force.com/VAVERA
- Speak to a VA benefits specialist by calling: 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411)
- New Yorkers who need assistance securing their health care and benefits can contact: https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/help/help-for-new-yorkers/
Senator Gillibrand first introduced her bill, the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, in September 2020, alongside a bicameral group that included Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA), comedian Jon Stewart, activist John Feal, and a strong coalition of veterans service organizations. The group introduced an updated, bipartisan version in the spring of 2021 with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). In May 2022, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester and Ranking Member Jerry Moran announced a bipartisan deal on toxic exposure legislation, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Gillibrand’s Presumptive Benefits bill formed the cornerstone of the presumptive care section of the final package. The final bill passed the Senate by a vote of 86-11 and was signed into law by President Biden on August 10th, 2022.