A Bradenton resident who has sought help for veterans suffering from Gulf War illness since 1995 was in the East Room of the White House this week to watch as President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act.
“It was pretty moving to see the survivors of veterans sitting there. I sat in a quiet moment of reflection thinking of countless veterans I have known who died from toxic wounds,” said Anthony Hardie, national chair and director of Veterans for Common Sense.
“If we don’t learn from our mistakes of the past we will keeping making those same mistakes. This bill is critically important,” said the 54-year-old Army veteran. “The biggest issue is that country did not learn its lesson after Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The VA called the PACT Act perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.
The PACT Act:
▪ Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras
▪ Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
▪ Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
▪ Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care
▪ Helps improve research, staff education and treatment related to toxic exposures.
To get a VA disability rating, a veteran’s disability must be connected to their military service. For many health conditions, they need to prove that their service caused their condition.
But for some conditions, the VA automatically assumes that the veterans service caused their condition. Those are called “presumptive conditions,” established by law or regulation.
“It’s a very encouraging step forward and has a lot of provisions that are overdue. It’s a promise finally delivered,” Hardie said.
“I was a very small part of this legislation. There were a lot of veteran advocates who carried it over the finish line,” he said.
For more information on the bill, visit the VA homepage.