Here’s how local veterans can get new PACT Act benefits
United States Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was in Springfield this week to talk about something called the PACT Act—a law he advocated for that went into effect January 1. The act will expand healthcare and disability benefits for veterans exposed to emissions from trash burn pits and herbicides like Agent Orange.
Studies show that being around those kinds of emissions and substances can cause serious health problems like cancer, chronic bronchitis and high blood pressure, even years after the exposure.
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said the goal of the roundtables he is holding around the state is to encourage affected veterans to file claims for PACT Act-related disability compensation and to apply for public Veterans Administration, or VA, health care—veterans who do sign up for VA health care will be automatically screened for the health problems that can come from exposure to the harmful substances covered by the Act.
The roundtable discussion lasted close to an hour and included local veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam, as well as their advocates and other community leaders.
Brown told the press after the event that he was thrilled when the PACT Act finally passed last August–especially after there was opposition to it from some Republicans in the Senate.
“One of things that angers me, perhaps more than anything, about the colleagues I have in the Senate is that they never complain about spending all that it takes to send men and women to war,” Brown said. “But then they want to get cheap on those men and women that come home.”
People there also brought up concerns to the Senator about inefficiencies and staffing issues at the VA, the challenge for veterans to overcome the stigma of mental illness and a general lack of veteran representation in public office.
Vietnam Veteran Richard Arthur told the younger veterans at the table that he was frustrated they still have problems accessing their benefits.
“Vietnam Veterans fought for all this stuff that the people are getting now that we didn't have a chance for,” Arthur said. “And here it is 50 years later and the military is still having problems that we started to try and get straightened out, and it’s just coming back again.”
Senator Brown’s next stop on his roundtable tour will be north of Columbus in Delaware.
Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.