CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) – U.S. Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand was in Corning on Friday to highlight the passing of the PACT Act to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits and other toxins.

Gillibrand spoke at the Corning American Legion on March 10. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act helps get rid of hurdles for veterans to get health care and benefits.

“Our service members and our veterans have been exposed to toxic substances for decades,” Gillibrand said. “During the Vietnam War, thousands of service members were exposed to Agent Orange, and created a number of illnesses for those that were exposed,” she said. “I had to fight to make sure all our Vietnam Era Veterans, including the Blue Water Navy Veterans, were included in that,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand added that Gulf War Veterans and Post 9/11 Veterans are included in this now as well, as many were exposed to the toxins released by burn pits during those conflicts.

The act was passed in 2022 and was recently implemented. According to Gillibrand’s office, an estimated 3.5 million members of the military could have been exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation, and Gulf War toxins.

“Here in Steuben County, we have the third highest percentage of veterans in New York State, and over a third have been estimated to have served in the Gulf War or later,” Gillibrand said. “So we need to make sure that veterans in this community suffering from toxic exposure get the care they need,” she said.

While in Corning, Gillibrand explained how veterans can apply for and access the benefits brought about by the law if they’ve been exposed to toxins.

Anyone trying to submit a claim can go onto the VA Government website, call 1-800-MYVA411, or email Gillibrand’s office at

Veterans that have been previously denied coverage have been highly encouraged to reapply, by both Senator Gillibrand, and Dawn Smith, Bath VA’s Post-9/11 Military2VA Case Management Program Manager, as they now might fall into newly added criteria.

“Any veteran that’s been in the military, please, please, even if you’ve applied or tried to apply in the past, please contact your local VA,” Smith said. “You can also try to enroll again by dialing 1-877-222-8387, to see if you’re eligible now,” she said.

Smith added that anyone already being seen in the VA to contact their provider about any possible exposures they may have been subject to.

Smith provided information about upcoming PACT Act Open House events happening in three locations in March and April.

The open houses will have onsite resources for veterans, including:

  • PACT Act Information
  • Toxic Exposure Screenings
  • VA Healthcare Enrollment
  • Claims Assistance and Benefits Advisors

The first open house will be on March 21, from 2-7 p.m. at the Bath VA Medical Center, Building 92, in Bath.

The second will be on March 23, from 2-7 p.m. at the Italian American Veterans Club at 1070 Magee St. in Elmira.

The third open house will be on April 11, from 2-7 p.m. at the Tokishi Training Center at 124 Nypum Drive, in Wellsboro, Pa.

Preregistration for the open houses is appreciated, but not required, and can be done by emailing, or by calling 607-664-4899.