NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the PACT Act, a sweeping expansion of healthcare benefits for American veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while on duty.
Thousands have signed up, but that’s only a fraction of the vets who are eligible.
“Get screened. And if you know a veteran, get them screened,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Because prevention is the way to help our veterans.”
The burn pits were commonly used in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of things in hostile environments.
“When you think of all the people who have contracted terrible diseases and rare cancers, the only thing they have in common is that during their military service they came into contact with toxic chemicals,” said Allison Weir, executive director of Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. “The only possible conclusion is that the substance they were exposed to is the source of their diseases.”
So far nationwide, about 400,000 vets have applied for screening and aid, about 7,000 of which are from Connecticut. But millions more are eligible.
Only a tiny fraction of veterans eligible for this care and benefits and for screening have taken advantage of this resource,” Blumenthal said. “It is not a handout, it is not a gift. You’ve earned it. It’s due.”