Kentucky advocate celebrates signing of PACT Act
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Veterans exposed to burn pits while serving overseas will have an easier time getting medical care. For many years, veterans’ service organizations have been working towards the change, saying younger veterans were dying due to exposure to toxic fumes, and said they’ve had to fight the VA to access care.
President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Wednesday.
The law makes millions of combat veterans exposed to fumes from burning trash and fuel eligible for care from the VA, and for many, they will no longer be required to prove their illness is directly linked to breathing in smoke from burn pits.
Brian Amburgey, an advocate from Winchester, Kentucky, said he has been working for seven years to pass federal legislation guaranteeing medical care for service members exposed to various toxins.
After the signing, Amburgey said, “To finally see that everybody’s going to get justice, I’ve still got chills bumps just thinking about it.”
Amburgey is a former Marine who says he’s battled tumors and other serious health problems after being exposed to contaminated water while stationed at Camp Lejeune in the mid-1980s.
He said of his advocacy, “My motivation wasn’t just for me. I wanted to be make sure that everybody got justice.”
Millions of veterans are eligible to make new claims. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the VA is ready to handle the influx of new claims with new hires, and by processing claims electronically. He also tells Gray Television that the VA will make care available to more veterans immediately.
McDonough said, “No matter what the law says in terms of when it starts, we’re going to consider that having started today with the President’s signature. We’re going to get to work on it.”
McDonough also said the VA setup the website, va.gov/pact for veterans to file their claims. Activist and comedian Jon Stewart said it was really nice to see a burn lifted from the shoulders of these families, “Let’s get them the benefits that they deserve, the people that are fighting it right now, let’s get them the care they need.”
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