MISSOULA — US Senator Jon Tester was in Missoula on Friday to meet with veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during the time of their service.
The PACT Act — which was passed by Congress in August of 2022 — expands VA health care benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. Being exposed to toxic substances can cause multiple types of cancers.
The PACT Act directly impacts those who fought in the Persian Gulf Wars, the Vietnam War and the post-9/11 era wars. It allows the VA to hire more medical personnel and benefits managers and other support staff as the VA moves forward with the biggest expansion of VA healthcare in the United States' history.
Tester says veterans claims that were previously denied could now be covered under the PACT Act: “My message to those veterans who haven't been in the VA for a number of years is, go back in and talk to them. Issues that may have been turned down in past years may be covered because of the PACT Act."
Anton Johnson, the Veterans Outreach Program Specialist for the Missoula Vet Center, says the PACT Act is an important part of veterans getting healthcare.
“A lot of times when we are experiencing these toxic exposures, we're not sure what the outcome is going to be or any of the issues that are going to step from that," Johnson said. "So by putting the PACT Act into place, it has allowed veterans to get ahead of their health and really focus on what is wrong with them currently and then worrying how that’s linked to their service later on."
The PACT Act also requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in the VA while also adding 20 more presumptive conditions for toxic exposures. The measure also adds more locations where veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange and or radiation.
Visit the VA's website for more information.