WACO, TX (FOX 44) – Today, President Biden signed into law the Pact Act.
This will support veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More veterans can receive VA benefits and eligibility with this act being passed, including Vietnam veterans impacted by agent orange.
For burn pit victims previously jumping hurdles to receive benefits, McClennan County Veterans Service Officer, Steve Hernandez, says this act will make resources easier to access.
“Normally it was not in the service treatment records because it did not occur right away on some, it didn’t occur until later,” said Steve Hernandez, talking about some of the symptoms veterans have experienced over time after being in contact with burn pits.
A&M Central Texas Department of Nursing Director, Dr. Amy Mersiovsky says the problems are wide range.
“Respiratory issues, cancers, neurological issues, just all kinds of problems,” said Mersiovsky.
Other issues include tumors and gastrointestinal problems.
The Pact Act expands the amount of time post 9/11 service members can apply for VA benefits from previously five to now ten years.
“It just gives them a little more time to get that documentation and everything correct to enroll for their VA benefits,” said Mersiovsky.
To receive benefits in the past, veterans had to have had their service related injury documented or be able to prove their current medical symptoms or diagnosis is tied to their time in service inhaling toxic fumes.
For Hernandez working on veteran claims being denied due to little evidence, the law is now presumptive.
“It could be genetic, it could be based on your smoking habits, it could be based on your lifestyle,” said Hernandez. “The fact of the matter is, if you served and you were exposed, then you presume that that’s where you got it.”
Normally taking between 90 days to a year to get approved for VA benefits, Hernandez believes the claims process will now be streamlined to take three to six months.
Hernandez says now is the best time for veterans to act.
“Come in and file a claim now, especially if you know that you were exposed to a to a burn pit or even Agent Orange or some other toxin,” said Hernandez.
To contact Veteran’s One Stop to file a claim, click here.