PACT Act Will Change Health Benefits for Many Local Veterans

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President Joe Biden is expected to sign the PACT ACT it into law Wednesday.

It's now a victory for veterans around the country who will soon get access to healthcare after being exposed to toxic chemicals during war.

But veterans and elected officials say their work is far from over.

Because the courts have been burdened with a backlog of claims for years, veterans want to know who will get first priority.

There are also concerns over when certain presumptive conditions go into effect.

"Hypertension was added as a presumption to agent orange but that doesn't kick in for 2 or 4 years. Our concern for Vietnam-era veterans is if it's a presumptive in 2024, why isn't it a presumptive in 2022?" said K. Robert Lewis, a Service officer with the American Legion Department of Connecticut.

For years, veterans had to prove the connection between their illness and their service.

This bill changes that.

"We're talking about a lot of respiratory diseases, a lot of brain diseases, and they are disabling and it so disheartening because somebody has to prove their case," Lewis continued.

Burn pits and weapons of war like agent orange have left so many, so sick, for so long.

According to government figures, 3.5 million veterans were exposed to burn pits that were used to destroy garbage, chemicals, artillery, human waste, and more.

"Sadly, I've heard from veterans say 'I feel like the system is waiting for me to die before my claim is adjudicated', this will change that," said State Commissioner of Veterans Affairs in Connecticut, Thomas J. Saadi.

Officials are now tasked with making veterans aware of their benefits--not just for themselves but for their families.

"Veterans who had toxic exposure to agent orange and other chemicals at times have passed these issues and genetic defects on to their children -- so it's not just about the service member, it's about their family, their descendants as well," Saadi said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other elected officials are now urging generations of veterans to come forward and apply if they've been exposed to toxic chemicals.

If you think you qualify under the new legislation, click here to apply and look for answers to your questions.

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