‘The enemy wasn’t always human’: Up to 8 million vets entitled to PACT Act toxic exposure benefits

The PACT Act is being called the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history. It expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.
Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Toxins
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:22 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Millions of veterans and their survivors could get new and increased benefits with The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The PACT Act is being called the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history. And nearly seven decades of service men and women are entitled to it.

William Morden says he’ll never forget life in a hot zone. Approximately 14 months, consisting of dodging bullets, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and any other threat on the ground.

“There’s moments when your adrenaline keeps you up for days,” said Morden, a U.S. Army Iraq War veteran. “My job to maintain the fighting edge -- that’s where the rubber hits the road. We’re doing the job to eliminate the threat.”

In 2004 he served on the frontlines in Mosul, Tal Afar, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Samarra, and Najaf. And the enemy wasn’t always human.

“There were big open holes in the ground that were constantly on fire that had everything from biohazard material, to discarded batteries to random people throwing all kinds of trash -- dead animals into these holes that were just burning non-stop,” Morden said.

He’s describing burn pits commonly used in some overseas locations to discard medical, plastics, rubber, and even human waste on military bases.

“It’s what you have to accept when you’re in that environment,” he said. “It’s a life like no other that I can explain.”

Which is why the Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for veterans like Morden: Anyone exposed to burn pits, herbicides and other toxins while serving in Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Post 9/11 operations.

“We expect that there is a population of probably 6 million to 8 million veterans who are entitled to these benefits,” said Linda Parker, VA Columbia Regional Benefits Office acting director. “Now we’re only asking if you tell us where you served and you have a condition -- we presume it is service connected.”

The PACT Act adds more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions, things like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and high blood pressure. It also adds more presumptive locations. And the VA is asking that all veterans make an appointment for a toxic exposure screening.

“Any veteran, regardless of age, regardless of their medical conditions, that’s entitled for benefits and healthcare absolutely should advantage of what the VA has to offer,” Parker said.

Parker adds if you were previously denied a claim, you are encouraged to file a supplemental claim, and a veteran’s family member or dependent may receive benefits if they meet eligibility requirements.

“What is going to be expedited is a determination that a veteran will be or is service connected,” Parker said.

Once a claim has opened, processing takes up to five months. Veterans who are not enrolled with the VA are encouraged to enroll; veterans who are enrolled are encouraged to make an appointment with their doctor through the VA.

“I would say, this is what the VA was established to do, to take care of those who bore the burden of protecting our freedoms,” Morden said. “No matter what you did. No matter what your job was. These are your rights.”

Please share this story, there are up to eight million vets and families who are eligible for benefits. It is not one flat payout; it will depend on a veteran’s disability claim rating. To learn more visit, https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paid_search&utm_campaign=ar_pact_fy22_veterans&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-sjo8OX3_AIV79uGCh2MIQ-gEAAYASAAEgKOlfD_BwE