April 14, 2023

ICYMI: Cortez Masto Highlights PACT Act Benefits She Secured for Nevada Veterans

In Case You Missed It, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) met with veterans community leaders and VA representatives in Las Vegas and Reno to highlight medical and disability benefits available to them through the PACT Act.

Senator Cortez Masto has spent her career fighting for Nevada veterans. She wrote and passed the Brian Neuman Act to remove roadblocks for disabled veterans accessing their benefits, and worked across the aisle to get legislation helping veterans exposed to Agent Orange and expanding benefits for women veterans signed into law.

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 Las Vegas Sun: Expansion of veterans’ benefits is ‘landmark legislation’

Thousands of combat veterans across the United States over the years developed health problems they say were likely caused from exposure to toxic chemicals while serving. But many of those veterans or their family members had insurance claims denied on grounds that it wasn’t possible to link their ailments with their military service.

But help will soon be on the way for thousands, if not millions, of ex-service members across the country.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing right by not just our service members and our veterans, but their families,” said U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who spoke to dozens in the veteran community Friday at an American Legion post near downtown Las Vegas about expanded eligibility for health care offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. “I want them to reach out.”

“This has been a fight, unfortunately for years, for us to get access and expand this eligibility for our veterans,” she continued. “And now, we’ve done that. So my goal is to make sure now how our veterans are taking advantage of it and getting those benefits if they need it.” 

“Adding hypertension to the list of ailments covered for Vietnam era veterans is a “game-changer,” said Bill Dolan, national executive committeeman for Disabled American Veterans.  

“For Vietnam veterans, this is landmark legislation,” he said. “The (PACT) Act represents a major shift in how we will be able to care for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances, and is another step toward ensuring this nation made good on its promise to care for all the brave men and women who volunteer their service to our country and defend our freedom.”

KRNV: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto talks 'PACT Act' with northern Nevada veterans

Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto stopped in Reno Wednesday morning to meet with northern Nevada veterans and veteran organizations about new legislation that aims to help those exposed to toxic chemicals.

The senator's discussion highlighted the PACT Act, a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, agent orange, and other toxic chemicals. It adds 20 new presumptive conditions and extends eligibility to veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf war, and post-9/11 eras.

According to the website, the VA calls it "perhaps the largest health care and benefits expansion in VA history." Cortez-Masto says with over 220,000 veterans in the state the act righting a wrong.

“It's what we should be doing is doing everything we can to support men and women in our active military they're serving right now and those veterans that served and and and really sacrifice that service with their health care.”

Passed back in August, the PACT Act legislation didn't go into effect until January. Access to healthcare benefits was also expanded under the PACT Act for any family members who have lost a veteran because of exposure.

KSNV: Cortez Masto back in Nevada to raise awareness for PACT Act

The senator is hoping to raise awareness about the recently implemented PACT Act, which she describes as a bipartisan win for veterans across this country, including here in Nevada.

The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, agent orange, and other toxic chemicals. The VA website describes the PACT Act as “perhaps the largest health care and benefits expansion in VA history”.

“It actually creates a presumption for agent orange exposure,” explained Senator Cortez Masto. “So if you served in Thailand, Cambodia, or Guam, there’s a presumption that you were exposed to agent orange — so you are eligible.”

If you’re a surviving loved one of a veteran who was exposed to toxic chemicals while serving — or served in one of the presumptive locations — you may be eligible for these benefits as well.

KLAS: ‘It used to burn real bad,’ certain toxic exposures from military service covered for veterans under new bill

While serving the country, thousands of veterans were served with lifelong health problems that they could not seek medical treatment for.

The problems were inflicted by exposure to toxic substances – like burn pits, agent orange, and radiation – while serving during the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and Post 9/11 Eras. In some instances, Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits did not cover treatment for those exposed.

Now in 2023, the PACT Act (or, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022), is expanding healthcare access to thousands more of these veterans.

Also, it requires the VA to provide toxic exposure screenings every five years to enrolled Veterans. Democratic Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto adds that it expands eligibility to the family members of a veteran who died because of toxic exposure while serving.

The senator met with Las Vegas veteran community leaders on Friday for a roundtable about the new law.

“It expands eligibility for combat veterans to seek VA healthcare because they’ve been exposed to some kind of toxic exposure like radiation or burn pits or toxic chemicals,” Cortez-Masto said outside American Legion before the roundtable Friday morning. “If there was an exposure, we’ve got to take care of them and their families.”

A VA representative at the roundtable predicts receiving up to 20,000 new members in Nevada because of the expanded and new eligibilities.

KTNV (Broadcast)

Today, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto met with veterans in our community to discuss the PACT Act, which adds 23 more chemicals to the list over eligibility for veterans, something that she says has been a long time coming.

“What it essentially does is it expands eligibility for combat veterans to seek VA health care,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “And this has been a fight, unfortunately, for years, for us to get access and expand this eligibility for our veterans and now we've done it.”

The Senator says the coverage includes any family members of veterans who lost their loved one due to elements they were exposed to in the field. She says if you have any questions about eligibility, reach out to her office directly.

KTVN (Broadcast)

Today, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto spoke to veterans here in Reno about the PACT Act. You may remember Congress passed the act last year. It expands eligible treatments for veterans after being exposed to toxic burn pits overseas, and it took effect in January. Today, Senator Cortez Masto encouraged veterans to see if they're eligible for expanded medical and disability benefits.

KOH (Radio)

Veterans who were exposed to toxic conditions during deployment can now get care and treatment under the recently passed PACT Act. U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto talks about veterans who qualify under the act, recently signed into law by President Biden.”

Sen. Cortez Masto: “If you were exposed to radiation, you were exposed to Agent Orange, you were supposed to certain toxins, you are eligible now to receive health care. And that's the intent of the PACT Act. And I want to make sure veterans are aware of it so that they are applying for these benefits.”

“The PACT Act also includes more federal research on toxic exposure and improves VA resources and compensation for affected vets and their families.”