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VA accelerates PACT Act enrollment; Guam delegate seeks extension of cutoff date for eligibility



By Pacific Island Times News Staff


All veterans who served in the battle zone, as well as those who participated in operations that exposed them to toxic chemicals will be able to enroll in the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care beginning March 5.


Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on Monday announced the accelerated health care eligibility under the Promise to Address Comprehensive

Toxics, better known as the PACT Act.


Describing the accelerated effort as "one of the “largest-ever expansions of veteran health care,” the VA said the policy applies to veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other combat zone, They can enroll in VA healthcare without first applying for any other benefits from the department.


"If you're a veteran who may have been exposed to toxins or hazards while serving our country, at home or abroad, we want you to come to us for the health care you deserve," McDonough said in a release.

 

The PACT Act includes language contained in H.R. 1191, the Correcting Guam’s History in the Pact Act, which would stretch the cut-off date for eligibility of veterans who were exposed to rainbow herbicides, such as Agent Orange, while serving on Guam. 


The current measure stipulates the exposure dates are between Aug.  15, 1958, and Jan. 8, 1962.  H.R. 1191, introduced by Guam Del. Moylan last year, would extend the date to July 31, 1980, hence allowing for more veterans to receive presumptive service connection. 


The extended dates were established through various studies conducted over 

the years,  justifying the exposure to the herbicides in Guam beyond 1962, according to a press release from Moylan's office.


The VA's announcement prompted Moylan to request McDonough to adopt a similar approach toward changes for those who served on Guam between the dates outlined in H.R. 1191, saying this would be "rightful for all veterans who were exposed during this era, regardless of their location."

 

“I am happy to hear that the Department of Veterans Affairs has indeed expanded the dates of the PACT Act for those veterans who were exposed to rainbow herbicide pesticides in Guam for a period that prolonged nearly 23 years and not just four, and one which mirrors H.R. 1191,” Moylan said. 


“The bi-partisan measure recognizes the inequities veterans who were exposed in Guam have faced when it comes to their healthcare, and I thank Secretary McDonough and his department for making these changes administratively. These veterans have waited too long, and they shouldn’t be forced to wait

 any further while awaiting legislation to pass Congress," he added.



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