MENOMONIE, Wis. -- Following a major expansion of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits within the last year, Dunn County officials are urging Veterans to seek a review of the benefits they are receiving to ensure they are getting all that they have earned.
“The PACT Act is the biggest legislation for Veterans in a long, long time,” said Greg Quinn, Dunn County Veterans Service Officer. “It’s time for veterans to get another benefit review because of these new changes.”
President Biden in August signed the Honoring Our PACT Act that was intended to help Veterans receive benefits related to potential exposures to harmful substances during their service. Health care benefits were expanded to millions of veterans from all eras who came into contact with hazardous materials.
According to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV): “The Honoring Our PACT Act will reduce bureaucratic obstacles for an estimated 3.5 million veterans who seek VA benefits due to burn pit exposures during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile locations. The law adds nearly two dozen presumptive conditions related to burn pit exposure, meaning Veterans who served in overseas locations with active burn pits no longer must prove their exposure or establish direct service connection if diagnosed with ailments listed in the law that are known to cause such conditions.”
The new law also gives Veterans more time to enroll in the VA’s health care system.
Jessica Stark, Dunn County Veterans Specialist, said that, for example, if a Veteran suffers from hypertension, and had exposure to Agent Orange, the PACT Act means that the government assumes the malady was service-related.
“It’s time to check back in,” Stark said of the need for Veterans to ensure they are getting the benefits they earned during their military service, “or check in for the first time.”
Quinn said Veterans are eligible for many benefits from the federal government as well as those provided by the state and localities.
“We also will try to connect Veterans with other county departments if that is necessary,” Quinn said.
“We want to make sure the Veteran is getting everything they have earned so they can make an informed decision whether they want to use any of them,” Stark added.
Before the PACT Act, Veterans faced hurdles in demonstrating they were exposed to toxins that caused health problems. Reports indicate that the PACT Act has led to a significant increase in the number of Veterans enrolling in VA care, with the VA saying that about 40 percent of the Veterans they have screened are reporting some type of toxin exposure during their military service.
A Veteran can make an appointment for a benefit review by calling the office at (715) 232-1646. Quinn and Stark said an appointment will ensure that enough time is set aside for the benefit review. The office is in Suite 116 in the County Administration building at 3001 Highway 12 East in Menomonie.