HELENA — The VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison held a PACT Act event Thursday where veterans were screened for toxic exposure and walked through how they could sign up for newly expanded health care.
“Exposure to toxic chemicals causes problems. They don't appear the next day, or maybe even they don't appear the next year, but down the road, they do appear,” says veteran, Mike Collins.
The PACT Act, or the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, was signed into law in August of this year. The act works to expand healthcare and benefits for veterans. Mainly the expansion is for those veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. Generations of veterans are now able to see if they meet eligibility requirements to receive care for possible toxic exposure which can lead to various health problems.
At the VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison, the PACT Act event made it easy for veterans to access resources to sign up for healthcare, get screened for toxic exposure, make a claim, and more.
Additionally, there was a PACT Act event at the VA Clinic in Billings.
Paul Graham, a veteran and engineer who served in multiple places such as Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan says that he’s glad that this act will finally help with those who have suffered from toxic exposure.
“You come back from, well, from the sandbox, we called it, breathing crap for however long we were there. And medical issues that pop up that, you know, you come back whole, but things start going sideways and you don't know why. And maybe we can make the connection and get some more veterans in here, make them aware that this is available, and that we are looking at what they've been exposed to with an intent to identify it and then treat it,” says Graham.
This expansion of health care is a way in which the US can help honor veterans and help keep them better-taken care of after they return home.
“Veterans served us. Many of their colleagues died for by serving their country. So, we need to do all we can to make sure that we're serving them when they come home,” says Executive Director of the Montana VA Health Care System, Judy Hayman.