The PACT Act: West Virginia veterans encouraged to sign up for assistance | News

Now Eric Cravey

CNHI News W.Va.

At the age of 40, John Brannon has served in 17 different military deployments and been to three countries, but he has suffered from a variety of illnesses that have been diagnosed as cancer or serious physical ailments. of man.

Brannon, who lives in Washington, West Virginia, has a unique military career serving in the US Air Force, Navy and Army from 1990 to 2014. Started after high school, updated by Brannon Air Force Ones and repaints. Later, he participated in the Army’s “Blue to Green” program – which allowed Air Force personnel to enlist and serve in the Army – during Operation Desert Storm , he was sent to the Middle East where he endured sandstorms and other toxins. .

“The place where we stayed was a village called Eskan Village, right next to, they told us, the largest oil refinery in the world, which is still pumping toxic waste to all of us,” Brannon said.

He was later assigned to an Iraqi Border Patrol unit along the Syria-Iraq border west of Sinjar, Iraq when a massive sandstorm hit.

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“I was near the burning fields all the time. I was out of the area, when the biggest sandstorm in the history of Iraq happened in July of 2009,” he said.

Now 51, Brannon, like many American veterans, wants to know if the PACT Act, signed into law this past August, will help him resolve the some of the health issues he has.

Brannon was one of 50 veterans who attended a town hall event earlier this month at VFW Post 573 in downtown Clarksburg. The event was led by officials from the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center who explained the new law and why it is important for veterans to sign up.

“As many of you know, when our country’s soldiers serve overseas, many of them are exposed to toxic hazards – things like toxic air, radiation, smoke, sales clerks, burn pits and other environmental hazards,” VA Veterans Education Officer John D. Seti said in his opening remarks. “In the years that followed, these exposures caused many artists to develop serious health conditions, which affected their lives and the lives of those around them.”

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The PACT Act will expand VA health services to millions of veterans and their survivors, Seti said. The law covers soldiers who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the Middle East conflicts that occurred after 9/11, Seti continued.

Seti said he already has concerns with some veterans who feel that if they apply for PACT Act benefits, it will negatively affect their current service connection benefits. He assured the guests that this was not the case, and the two programs separated. Veterans can apply for free with Veterans Affairs without an attorney.

“We at the VA want you to sign up now. We want you to come in and apply, we have people here to help you,” said Seti. “The VA will start processing the applications. PACT Act claims on January 1.”

VA Environmental Health Director Mabel Wright said PACT Act health screenings began Nov. 8 for veterans who have been to their primary care physician since then mandated under the new law. As of Dec. 15, Wright said that nationwide, the VA has conducted PACT Act inspections on more than 700,000 veterans.

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Wright said that along with well-known toxins, such as chlorine and radiation, there are what he called global exposures covered under the new law, such as hearing loss. to jet fuel, asbestos, depleted uranium, war agents, or the testing of such agents.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never had a soldier who hasn’t heard anything even in training, you’ve all been involved in something and we want to know those shows still exist. the story,” Wright said.

He said the first priority of the PACT Act is to ensure that veterans receive the care they need for exposure to toxic substances, and then to ensure that veterans receive the benefits allowed under in the new law.

For information about the PACT Act, call the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center at 304-623-3461.


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