Helena Independent Record: 6,680 Montana veterans screened for exposures under PACT Act so far
So far there are 6,680 Montanans among the 1 million veterans who have been screened for military exposures as part of the PACT Act signed into law Aug. 10, federal officials said Wednesday.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said the screenings allow the VA to bring care and benefits to millions of toxic-exposed veterans and their survivors. Veterans enrolled in VA health care will be offered an initial toxic exposure screening then follow-up screenings at least once every five years.
The VA said it surpassed initial screening expectations through outreach campaigns that included hosting more than 90 Week of Action events throughout the nation and in Puerto Rico through Dec. 17. Veterans can get screenings at any time of the year with their VA health care provider.
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA undersecretary for health, said health care teams reached an “incredible breakthrough in a short length of time.”
“These screenings are paramount to improving the health outcomes for veterans and providing them with the health care and benefits they’ve earned as quickly as possible. This is among the first steps we have taken to deliver even more benefits and health care to Veterans who have been exposed to toxins during their service,” Elnahal said.
Elnahal was in Montana in December with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. They discussed the PACT Act with area veterans.
The act is the largest expansion of veteran health care and benefits in decades. It increases VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. More than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances on overseas deployments will gain easier access to health and disability benefits under the bill.
The screening takes an average of five to 10 minutes and begins by asking veterans if they believe they experienced any toxic exposures while serving in the Armed Forces. Those who answer “yes” are asked about specific exposures, including open burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation, contaminated water and other exposures.
Veterans who have not been screened for toxic exposure or do not receive care through the VA should contact the VA for more information.
Learn more about the PACT Act at VA.gov/PACT or by calling 1-800-MYVA411.