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A local government agency can help vets and their loved ones submit insurance claims.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY  - Vicki Horn, supervisor for Washington County Veteran Services, explains expanded coverage under the PACT Act to Sgt. Pheonix Brooks. Washington County veterans can turn to this agency for help with their medical coverage.

Newly expanded benefits for veterans are available to service members in Washington County following a landmark federal bill passed this summer.

The PACT Act expands the eligibility for Veterans Affairs health care for veterans who were exposed to burn pits or toxic substances in Vietnam, the Gulf War and in the post-9/11 era.

The bill also requires that every veteran who is screened at a VA hospital is screened for toxic exposures.

Veterans are often exposed to chemical fallout because of combat, training or disposal operations.

Agent Orange is an infamous chemical used for tactical aerial drops during the Vietnam War. It's an herbicide that was used to thin out dense jungles that were the favored terrain of communist guerrillas during the war, but it can have dire physical impacts on the human body, and many veterans were exposed to it during the conflict.

There are also frequent burn pits used by U.S. military operations to dispose of hazardous materials, like plastics, medical waste, human waste and other materials.

Many veterans and military contractors have ailments that result from prolonged exposure to these conditions, and their federal medical insurance didn't always cover it. The PACT Act seeks to shore up these gaps in coverage.

"We know there are hundreds if not thousands of veterans in our county who have previously been denied benefits and are now eligible for health care and compensation due to the PACT Act," said Vicki Horn, supervisor for Washington County Veteran Services, a program of Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services (DAVS).

The press release highlights 43-year-old Sgt. Pheonix Brooks, who filed for a claim in 2017 to treat his asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that many veterans developed due to exposure from burn pits.

He was denied coverage for those conditions, but the DAVS team says it helped him successfully resubmit claims based on updates to the VA's list of presumptive conditions.

"We've waited too long for the benefits we deserve," Brooks stated in the release. "Every veteran who was exposed to burn pits needs to apply as soon as they can. DAVS staff are great to work with, so don't be afraid to reach out and ask them to help you submit your claim."

Veterans can get assistance applying for benefits by calling DAVS at 503-846-3060 or by filling out the form on their website.

The VA has also established a PACT Act webpage to help answer questions for veterans and their loved ones.


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