Michigan veterans urged to apply for toxic exposure benefits
Dozens of military veterans met in East Lansing on Friday to learn about a VA program aiding those who were exposed to toxic chemicals, primarily from burn pits in war zones around the world.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin helped organize the townhall. She worked on the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (Honoring Our PACT Act) which passed in 2022.
The mid-Michigan Democrat says the legislation grew out of a need to provide care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their service overseas. Slotkin herself was exposed to the burn pits during her time as a CIA analyst in the middle east.
“It’s not like we’re sorting paper from aluminum from jet fuel from plastic,” Slotkin reminded the veterans, “It’s anything and everything in that burn pit.”
Slotkin said the long fight by Vietnam veterans for health care coverage for their exposure to Agent Orange inspired the urgency for care for veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and other recent conflicts.
John Boerstler is the chief veterans experience officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He told the veterans the new program added 23 conditions, including asthma, to the VA’s list of medical conditions presumed to be linked to deployments.
“If we can identify your deployment location and date that meets the qualifications of those 23 presumptive conditions and you have those symptoms, then we’ll grant that,” said Boerstler.
More than 200,000 claims have been completed since the law passed in August. But the VA says as many of five million veterans may qualify for coverage.
The deadline for veterans to apply is August 9.