NBC Montana: Tester hopes to highlight veterans after PACT Act expansion

by Bowen West

Earlier this week, Veterans Affairs announced a big win for veteran health care. Now, veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards are now eligible to directly enroll in VA health care.

This is thanks to an expansion on the PACT Act.

Sen. Jon Tester, who championed the act through Congress in 2022, continued the discussion on Thursday.

He was accompanied by Fred Hamilton, a veteran from Columbia Falls, as his guest to the State of the Union address. Tester said his goal is to continue to bring attention to the needs of the veteran community.

Hamilton has been suffering from the effects of agent orange since his time in Vietnam, but Tester believes it’s never too late to do right by the veterans who served.

“I guess it’s better late than never, but the truth is this is a giant step forward for the PACT Act and future generations too, because it doesn’t just go away,” Tester said.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 1 million veterans have applied for benefits since the act was released.

“The VA is not what it was 40 years ago,” Hamilton said. “They are there to help now.”

For more information on the PACT Act Expansion and how to apply, visit va.gov/PACT.