GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Thousands of veterans are now eligible for additional benefits with an act in effect the first of the new year.
The PACT Act is a law that was signed by President Biden in August that expanded healthcare and benefits for veterans.
As of January 1, 2023, the US Department of Veteran Affairs said the new act will extend eligibility for VA healthcare to assist veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.
“In the military, you’re exposed to so many different things. Especially in my line of work in special forces,” said Todd Carpenter, Sgt. 1st Class disabled Army Veteran.
Carpenter served in the Army on the heels of the Vietnam war for just shy of 15 years.
“We served all over the world in every kind of environment you can think of,” said Carpenter.
While he said there are no direct links that tie him to toxic exposures, there are servicemen and women who are dealing with the effects.
“We were exposed to various chemicals, vehicle exhaust, airplane exhaust, fluids, hydraulics, all of those kind of things,” said Carpenter.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 200,000 claims have been filed since the act was signed into law in August. Nearly 100,000 veterans have received the VA’s new toxic exposure screening.
With the expansion, the White House said veterans are now eligible to participate in a year-long open enrollment and apply for affordable healthcare.
“It has greatly improved in the 20-plus years that I have been involved with the VA,” said Carpenter.
It’s a change that Carpenter said he hopes will help those who served our country.
“There’s a lot of different ways that the PACT Act will help, as long as those doing the physical evaluations approach that with somewhat an open mind,” said Carpenter. “I would hope that this new law creates a better process for them going forward and they will not have to wait 50 years to finally get the care and treatment that their service warrants.”
The US Department of Veterans Affairs encourages veterans to file claims now and apply for expanded benefits. Those who did not previously qualify are able to reapply online.
More than 1.7 million VA disability and pension claims were completed for veterans in 2022, according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs. It was an all-time record that broke the previous year’s record by 12%.
To file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA healthcare, click here.