GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Friday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited nine outpatient clinics serving veterans around upstate New York. One of those was located in the heart of downtown Glens Falls, where she was welcomed by Mayor Bill Collins, city officials, and leaders in veteran assistance around the Capital Region.
Gillibrand visited the Glens Falls VA Clinic on Friday to speak about the 2022 Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Passed late last year, the legislation expands benefits for U.S. veterans exposed to substances used in “burn pits.” Those include Agent Orange, an herbicide exposed to millions during the Vietnam War; and other toxic burn pits in the Gulf War, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those pits and substances have been linked to diseases including chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and skin cancer, as well as physical injuries. Gillibrand said that, while some veterans have had insurance claims come through for what they have suffered in service related to Agent Orange and burn pits, plenty more have been left behind.
“I’ve heard from veterans, service members and their families who have been raising the alarm about these toxic substances and the horrible diseases that they cause,” said Gillibrand, speaking inside the Glens Falls facility. “So, with advocates, service members and veterans, we wrote a bill.”
That bill became the PACT Act, which aims to expand the requirements for eligibility to receive aid for burn pit-related injuries and conditions. Gillibrand said that as of mid-February, over 300,000 PACT Act claims have already been seen, with around 60,000 approved.
The senator also talked about what comes next. Her office is set to call on the approval of data collection that will reveal how the PACT Act has succeeded so far in more detail, and what it still needs to do. That effort will rely on outreach, first and foremost.
The Glens Falls VA clinic offers treatment for 30 conditions related to toxin exposure, including 24 now covered by the PACT Act. The call to area residents: If you’ve filed a claim before, it’s a great time to try again.
“The PACT Act is a historic law that provides the avenue for those who have earned the honor for us to serve them,” said Albany Stratton VA Medical Center Executive Director Darlene DeLancey. “It insures generations of veterans and their spouses and significant others to get the care they need and the benefits they deserve.”