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Tens of thousands of veterans in Ohio exposed to burn pits approved for benefits under PACT Act

More than 1 million veterans across the country approved for benefits
Joe Biden
Posted at 5:23 PM, May 21, 2024

CLEVELAND — President Biden was in New Hampshire Tuesday to mark a milestone with the Heath Robinson PACT Act, with more than 1 million claims approved.

The act provides the needed care to military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the law is named after Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a Central Ohio veteran who died in 2020 at age 39 from lung cancer after exposure to burn pits during a one-year deployment in Iraq in 2006.

The White House announced that more than one million benefits claims have been approved since the law went into effect in August of 2022, more than 30,000 of them from Ohio.

"This law is the most comprehensive expansion of health care for veterans who faced toxic exposure in our country's history," said Brown. "Now it's making sure nearly 32,000 veterans in Ohio — and a million across our country — are getting the care they earned through their service. This is just the beginning – we'll keep working to get the word out to veterans across Ohio. If you were exposed to toxins while serving our country, you deserve the care you earned. Period. No exceptions."

The news was welcomed at Browns Stadium Tuesday as local disabled veterans took part in a corn hole challenge as part of Military Appreciation Month sponsored by the Browns and Cross Country Mortgage.

"Recognition days like this are very important because the gap between those who have served and the families who have had members serve and the general public is starting to grow again," said Richard DeChant of the Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism.

On hand was Dion Moore of Cleveland, who spent 20 years in the Air Force. While serving in Afghanistan, he was exposed to toxic burn pits at Bagram Air Field and only recently found out he may be eligible for benefits under the PACT Act

"I heard about it through the VA; I applied about six months ago," he said.

He's waiting to hear back.

Applying is something DeChant said he's encouraging all veterans exposed to do.

"The PACT Act is very important to all veterans and, selfishly, myself. I am in the process of filing a burn pit claim do to the toxic exposures that I had in my last tour in the Middle East," he said.

He's eligible because the program was expanded in March to include veterans from years earlier than what was called for by the original act, including the first Gulf War and Vietnam.

"It could be years before things show up, and by having the extension we've got now, that's a godsend to a lot of veterans who may have been home for 10 or 12 years already, as was my case and then to find out there may be something related to exposures."

That's why the VA has this message to all veterans exposed: apply today at VA.gov

"Any veteran who has come in contact with Agent Orange from their days in Vietnam, there's potential benefits due to you because of the new presumptive condition system," said Terrence Hayes with the VA. "Even if you've been denied in the past prior to President Biden signing this bill into law, there's new authority now that helps us at the VA get to yes now.

"So again, I'm encouraging you to please give us that second shot, maybe that third shot to get it right to deliver those benefits and that healthcare."

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