By Michael Brewer
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
Because not all mountain veterans are members of organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disable American Veterans or the Marine Corps League, The Alpine Mountaineer has elected to offer some relevant legislative and Veterans Administration disability information that otherwise may not be available to them. These updates will primarily focus on advocacy for the veteran.
On the heels of decades of war and being sent into combat zones, literally millions of our nation’s veterans will soon have immediate access to health care and disability benefits for a myriad of illnesses and symptoms related to burn pits, atomic radiation (dating to the early 1960s), Agent Orange and other yet-to-be-listed toxicants.
The bill that passed last August is titled “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act.” This is the most sweeping hazardous exposure legislation in the U.S history of the Veterans Administration. After some sensitive haggling and delays, the bill passed 86-11 in the Senate.
The unique aspect of this bill is the retro feature where the law covers multiple generations of past veterans, to include nuclear weapons testing from the 1940s, personnel who worked with chemical weapons waste, radiation, jet fuel contamination and additional poisons and poisonous materials at a former Soviet air base in Uzbekistan called Karshi-Khanabad (K2) in the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.
This bill will cover approximately three million post 9/11 veterans who were exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-three presumptive conditions caused by burn pits and two new presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure were added. In addition, it includes Agent Orange benefits to veterans who served in Guam, American Samoa, Johnson Island and a variety of locations outside of Vietnam. Also, long in the waiting are three groups of Cold War-era service members who will have access to VA health care and benefits as atomic veterans. This has been in the works for three decades.
To register, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/registry.asp.
Source material from the American Legion