Springfield VA helps veterans expand health care for those exposed to toxins

Ashley shook and Alanna Flood

6 hours ago

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) Congressman Richard Neal was at the Springfield VA clinic on Friday to highlight passage of the PACT Act.

The PACT Act, signed into law by President Biden in August 2022, is intended to help veterans cope with the health complications they are struggling with from exposure to toxins, such as Agent Orange and chemical pits.

Neal told 22News: This is groundbreaking legislation. not only will he be dealing with toxic issues currently from Iraq or Afghanistan, but he will also try to address the Agent Orange problem, cases that have been brought in over the years. The VA is hiring thousands of people to expedite these claims and review them.

The new law extends health care and VA benefits to the more than five million veterans exposed to harmful chemicals. If you are a veteran interested in learning more about these extended benefits, please contact your local Veterans Service officer or call 1-800-MYVA411.

When our service members return home, many of them are faced with a new set of challenges resulting from a service-related disability or illness. For those struggling with complications from toxic exposure, it has been difficult to treat not only because of a lack of coverage, but because unlike a physical disability, it is not something for others to see. Now, with the PACT Act, we have finally provided the care and treatment these men and women deserve, said Congressman Neal. We owe it to our community of veterans to provide them with the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation. Toxic exposure is a cost of war, and our country must deliver on its promise to our veterans by acknowledging it and paying the bill. With the PACT Act, veterans who have been exposed to fire pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances during their service can now access the proper care.

The VA says it is expediting claims processing to ensure veterans with cancer from toxic exposures have access to treatment. VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said all PACT Act requests provide coverage for more than 20 purported new conditions.

No proofs are required. Bottom line: If you have any of these conditions, come see us for health care, but also file your benefit claim today so you can get the benefit you’ve earned, Hayes said.

Toxic exposure screenings will take place every five years, but if veterans notice any signs, they can seek immediate help. Hayes says there are thousands of veterans who have not yet signed up for coverage or filed a claim. She is urging those who have, to reach out to their fellow servants.

Veterans have already filed 600,000 applications since the passage of the PACT Act on August 10, 2022. To handle the surge in applications, the VA has added more than 27,000 to its regional office staff.

The PACT Act is a landmark new law that expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to fire pits and other toxic substances. We have coordinated multiple outreach and outreach events, like this one, in an effort to enable veterans to take advantage of the eligibility and expanded health benefits authorized by the PACT Act, VA Central Western Massachusetts Director Duane Gill said. VA CWM is here for our nations veterans, including those not enrolled in VA healthcare and those who choose to have their care in the community, and we encourage all veterans not enrolled in VA healthcare to apply for benefits from their PACT Act.

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