NBC Montana: Tester visits Missoula to discuss PACT Act success

by Kylie Gibson

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester spent time in Missoula Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 209 alongside local toxic-exposed veterans to discuss implementation of his Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act.

The law provides health care for post-9/11 combat veterans, creates a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure, expands the Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of health conditions presumed to be caused by toxic exposures, which opens the door to additional benefits for veterans, and improves resources to support claims processing.

“When people serve this country, often they get exposed to toxins they wouldn’t normally get exposed to if they hadn’t joined the service. What this bill does is make sure if you were exposed to a toxin and end up with a health condition, say a cancer or lung disease or whatever it might be, that you get the health care and benefits that you’ve earned because of your service to this country,” Tester said.

Since the PACT Act was signed into law in August 2022, the VA has received more than 1.2 million PACT Act-related claims, including more than 5,600 from Montana veterans and survivors. More than 531,000 veterans and survivors are receiving PACT Act-related benefits, including more than 3,200 veterans and survivors in Montana.

Tester is also leading the effort to reinstate criminal penalties for predatory, unaccredited veterans’ claims representatives who charge veterans unauthorized fees while helping them file VA disability claims with his Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding VA Benefits Act.