One Year of President Biden’s PACT Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2023
PRESS CONTACT: McKenzie Wilson, [email protected], 773-715-0169
ONE YEAR OF PRESIDENT BIDEN’S PACT ACT
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Building Back Together Interim Executive Director Mayra Macías released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of President Biden signing the The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into law:
“One year ago today, President Biden signed the largest expansion of VA benefits for toxic-exposed Veterans in more than thirty years. For far too long, Veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service, like Agent Orange or burn pits, went without the benefits they deserved. The PACT Act righted this wrong, expanding VA eligibility for Veterans and their families to receive health care and benefits for toxic-exposure-related claims.
On the first anniversary of the PACT Act, Building Back Together applauds President Biden’s leadership in passing this important legislation, and for delivering on his promise to fight for our nation’s servicemembers. Though nothing can ever fully repay the sacrifices of Veterans who have bravely served our country, today, we celebrate this historic step to honor their service.”
Below are just a few of the stories from Veterans, VA officers, and Veterans’ families who have seen the impacts of the PACT Act first hand:
[New York] News10: Thousands of local veterans benefiting from PACT Act
“They’ve been waiting for years and years and being denied, some with really terrible cancers for this,” Stefanovic adds. But now, the answer from the VA has changed. Healthcare and monthly disability payments are being approved daily and for families like the Hemmerick’s, service-related death benefits, “She’s able to take care of her two children, she got a very significant retroactive check and her life is okay now. It went from being in shambles and uncertainty and not knowing where she was going to go to her being okay and that’s the greatest type of reward we can get from this work,” Stefanovic says.
[Wisconsin] Green Bay Press Gazette: Her husband was exposed to toxic chemicals in military; PACT Act helped Neenah widow get benefits
Nationally, there have been over 3.4 million veterans screened with 42% reporting at least one exposure. One of those screenings changed Linda Probst’s life. Her husband, Edward Probst of Neenah, died in March at 75 years old. He had served during the Vietnam War and died of service-related hypertension and Parkinson’s disease, she said… After going through the process under the new law, Linda Probst was able to get compensation in April.
[Wyoming] WyoFile: PACT Act delivering long-awaited benefits to Wyoming veterans
When he finished his service, Elbrecht registered with the VA and started filing claims. “And I don’t get approved for anything,” he said. “They say my asthma, it’s not due to my service.” He entered a burn pit registry in 2014, but nothing immediately came of that, either. Since the federal PACT Act went live in January, however, veterans should give the VA another chance to provide benefits that they deserve, Elbrecht said. He’s now the enrollment eligibility coordinator and environmental health coordinator at the Sheridan VA Medical Center, and he was a Wyoming test case for the PACT Act. “I was able to file, and I got an approved claim through the [Veterans Benefits Administration] within less than two months,” he said.
The increase in staffing coincides with the passage of the PACT Act, which expands VA healthcare and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, agent orange, and other toxic substances. “The flood gates opened with the PACT Act and that’s a good thing,” Stefanovic says. “That means that veterans who’ve been getting denied for years are now getting approved.”
[Ohio] The Journal-News: Area vets getting millions in aid following PACT Act passage
David Weeks, commander of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter 9, which has more than 1,600 members, said the PACT Act is “working great.” “I do a lot of claims for disabilities and it has gotten busy since we started the PACT Act,” Weeks said. “One area that I … was having troubles with having people approved for is people who were in the Vietnam War, but they were in Thailand, Guam and quite a few other locations and (were) exposed to Agent Orange and they would not get any help before, and they are now, which is great. “Now we’re able to give them the much needed disability stuff they need,” he said.
Navy veteran Joe Griner of Round Rock signed up for the PACT Act, with the hopes of learning more about the toxic substances he may have been exposed to during his service. “I worked in ship yards for a while. I know ship yards there’s a lot of various chemicals around,” Griner said. “I don’t really know what I’ve been exposed to and what is covered so I’m really excited to be here and kind of able to learn a little bit more about that and what I might face in the future.”
[Florida] WFTV: Veterans encouraged to apply for ‘significant expansion’ of PACT Act benefits
Jason Althouse, Veterans Services Officer for Seminole County, said the PACT Act is the most expansive legislation he has seen during his career. “More health-related benefits, faster health care for serious conditions, and disability compensation,” he said.
[Massachusetts] MassLive: Massachusetts veterans gaining health coverage benefits under the PACT Act
Vietnam veteran Gumersindo Gomez, executive director of the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts in Springfield, said making the conditions “presumptive” — or presumed to be service-connected — frees veterans from being forced to present mountains of paperwork in a long process in order to claim benefits. Gomez said he recently used provisions of the new law to help a veteran qualify for a 100% disability claim from the VA. “It wouldn’t have happened without this law,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been possible.”
[Ohio] Sandusky Register: Army widow wins relief
An Ohio woman lost her husband in 2020 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. This June, the mother of four adult children and military widow received her first pension payment, took a deep breath and said she was able to properly mourn the loss of her husband for the first time… The trio was unsuccessful in gaining approval until after the passing of the PACT Act — a bill that passed in 2022 that expands health care benefits to more veterans and their families.