It Is Estimated That 3.5 Million Individuals May Be Eligible To Claim New Health Care Benefits
SULLIVAN COUNTY – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Marc Molinaro (NY-19), Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek, and Sullivan County Legislator Luis Alvarez visited the Monticello VA Clinic 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 Monticello VA Clinic to ensure our vets across Sullivan County 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.”
“As a grateful nation, we have a solemn duty to care for our veterans and provide them with the support they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. That’s why, I applaud the enactment of the Honoring our PACT Act, which expands VA healthcare and benefits for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances during their service. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to defend our freedom, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they receive the care and assistance they need to cope with the long-term effects of their service.” -Congressman Marc Molinaro (CD 19)
“The PACT Act has had an immediate and profound impact on our local veterans, with our Veterans Service Agency having already assisted in the filing of 47 claims to date,” affirmed Sullivan County District 6 Legislator Luis Alvarez, chair of the County Legislature’s Veterans Committee. “Additionally, interest in this benefit has brought younger veterans to our offices, allowing us to make them aware of the other services we offer. I thank Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues for their unwavering and active support of our veterans, their families and the people who serve them.” -Sullivan County Legislator Luis Alvarez
“I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for coming today to discuss the PACT Act with our local Veterans and community leaders. I have been a tireless advocate for veterans throughout my time in the Assembly, and believe we need to ensure that we provide them the healthcare they deserve. Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect us, and it is only fair that we as a nation take care of them when they return home. I am proud to see the Pact Act is doing just that, and I look forward to helping our local veterans access this care.” – Assemblymember Aileen Gunther
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 Uzbekistan on 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?:
1. Schedule an appointment with a VA benefits specialist: vets.force.com/VAVERA
2. Speak to a VA benefits specialist by calling: 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411)
3. 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.