PACT Act delivers to America’s veterans

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022

COLUMBUS — Polk County Veterans have access to a vital resource when it comes to benefits related to their service. Polk County’s Veteran Service Officer, Gina Cashion, has assisted numerous veterans over the years in navigating the processes and paperwork to submit claims to the VA and is ready to assist more veterans following the passage of the PACT Act.  

 

“The PACT Act is the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years. Recent passage of the Act means improved access to healthcare for our veteran population,” says Cashion.  “I encourage my fellow veterans to reach out to me with questions on this Act and other benefit inquiries.” 

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Contained in the PACT Act is a provision for the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 which will have a profound effect on veterans and their dependents who suffered ill effects caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The threshold requirement is the individual had to be exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune for a period of not less than 30 days at any time between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

 

The PACT Act also ensures that veterans can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures, and expands access to VA health care services for veterans exposed during their military service. For post-9/11 combat veterans, the bill extends the period of time they have to enroll in VA health care from five to ten years post-discharge. For those combat veterans who do not fall within that window, the bill also creates a one-year open enrollment period. These expansions mean that more veterans can enroll in VA health care without having to demonstrate a service-connected disability. 

 

The Act lists 11 respiratory-related conditions, along with several forms of cancer, including reproductive cancers, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and brain cancers such as glioblastoma. The PACT Act requires that veterans enrolled in VA health care be screened regularly for toxic exposure-related concerns. 

 

In April 2022, the VA defined presumptive service connection for processing claims for new presumptive respiratory conditions. In August 2021, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other areas and who developed these conditions within ten years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care.  

 

Please contact Gina Cashion at the Polk County Veteran Services Office for more information at 828-894-0003.

 

 

Submitted by Joshua Kennedy