WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, the Union Leader published an op-ed by Senator Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, about the PACT Act. The bill, which Senator Hassan helped develop and pass into law, fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA – and more than 2,000 claims have already been filed by New Hampshire veterans.
Senator Hassan’s piece highlights the impact of the PACT Act and spreads the word about the law to ensure that all veterans know about the PACT Act benefits and care that they have earned and deserve.
Read Senator Hassan’s full op-ed here or below:
THE CHALLENGES that come with serving in our nation’s armed forces do not end when the homecoming banners come down, and the uniform is hung up. Veterans often will carry with them wounds, both visible and otherwise, for the rest of their lives.
For many veterans, those wounds include diseases linked to their exposure to toxic substances, such as burn pits during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or chemicals like Agent Orange that were deployed on battlefields in Southeast Asia. For many, these exposures likely contributed to serious illnesses, from respiratory illnesses to cancer. The Pentagon estimates that approximately 3.5 million service members in the Middle East and Afghanistan might have been exposed to toxic burn pits, but for far too long, the VA denied the overwhelming majority of burn pit claims.
One year ago this June, the Senate passed a bill that marks one step forward in our efforts to try to better fulfill the obligation our country owes to those who serve: the bipartisan PACT Act, a law that delivers to all generations of veterans exposed to toxic substances the support and care that they need – and have earned. This law was long overdue, and it only got over the finish line because service members advocating for its passage refused to give up until this fight was won.
Now, we are in the process of implementing this law. Already, New Hampshire veterans have filed over 2,200 PACT Act-related claims, and more than 1,300 more New Hampshire veterans are now getting their health care through the VA. It is critical that all veterans are aware of the care and benefits that they can receive through the PACT Act, so I would encourage all Granite Staters to talk to veterans whom they know about these new benefits. You can connect veterans with these resources by visiting va.gov/pact or by calling the VA at 800-698-2411, and veterans can also always call my office for assistance at 603-622-2204. We all need to do our part to make sure that those who served are receiving the full benefits that they have earned.
Honoring those who served our country neither begins nor ends with the PACT Act; our obligation to veterans demands our continued energy and dedication, and should be an effort that unites all Americans. The PACT Act only passed thanks to the support of members of both parties, and this bipartisan approach is the best way to make more progress for veterans. The men and women in uniform who fought for our freedoms risked their lives for all Americans; from red states and blue; from all backgrounds, ages, and walks of life. In the same manner, honoring and supporting those who serve is a responsibility that belongs to all of us. If Americans are united in this effort, then I know that the bipartisan PACT Act will just be our latest step forward in improving support for veterans and mending the wounds of those who stepped forward to confront great dangers – and in many cases, suffer great harms – so that the rest of us might be free.