Vermont veterans’ widows grateful for signing of PACT Act

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - President Biden signed a bipartisan bill Wednesday the White House is calling the most significant expansion of benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits in more than 30 years.

Veterans suffering from illnesses related to burn pits and other toxins have struggled to get the care they need covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. President Biden said Wednesday he is hoping to put an end to that by signing the PACT Act.

“The PACT Act is the least we can do for the countless men and women... who suffered toxic exposure while serving their country,” said Biden.

The president signing the PACT Act means the more than 3.5 million veterans that have been exposed to some form of toxins can apply for immediate care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The most important thing is let’s validate their work. The next thing is let’s get to work on executing this. That’s how we’re thinking about it,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

One of the highlights of the bill includes the VA no longer requiring vets and their families to prove their illnesses came from exposure in order to get covered. It means a lot to Patricia Cram who lost her husband Mike, an Iraq war vet, to prostate cancer in 2017.

“When you’re going through the death of your loved one, you want to spend all your time caring for (and) spending time with (them). And you don’t want to be on the phone with the VA, rushing to the post office, to send more documentation that they quite frankly already have,” said Cram.

The PACT Act signing also signifies President Biden delivering on a promise he made during his State of the Union address. It is something June Heston, who also lost her husband Mike, an Afghanistan war vet, to pancreatic cancer in 2018, will always cherish.

“I had people texting me saying, “Are you watching this?” I said, “I am.” So now I feel like we did it!” And (President Biden) was right there with us because he knows exactly what this means,” said Heston.

Heston was referring to Biden’s son Beau who died of brain cancer which the president believes was developed from burn pit exposure. Any veteran who has been exposed can now file a claim at VA.gov/PACT.

President Biden said signing the PACT Act is a sacred obligation to both the troops we send into harm’s way and their families when they return home.

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