MARIANNA, Fla. (WMBB) — Last August, Congress passed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which expands health care and benefits for Vietnam Veterans.
The Panhandle has one of the largest populations of Vietnam Veterans in the region and many are unaware they’re eligible for expanded benefits under the Pact Act.
The Florida Department of Veteran Affairs hosted a Veteran’s Town Hall on Wednesday morning alongside Jackson County Veterans Services, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans to help eligible veterans enroll in health care services.
“We’re bringing in our local veterans from surrounding areas to learn about the veteran’s administration and how to file the claim, what they can file a claim for, and what they need to expect through the process,” Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Public Information Administrator Jeffrey Oboes said.
None of the organizations charge veterans to apply for the benefits.
“The PACT Act got passed last year and what it does is it increases the geographic areas for Vietnam Veterans, presumptive diseases, and different cancers,” Oboes said. “The biggest one is hypertension, so hypertension for people who served in the designated areas is now presenting a presumptive disease for a Vietnam Veteran. So they can come in, they can file a claim for hypertension.”
Veterans that served in Vietnam, Thailand, Guam, and a few other countries are eligible under the PACT Act.
It also covers toxic exposure screenings.
“I think what they have the biggest difficulty is it is that first step, is ‘who do they reach out to?’ and getting this information into their hands,” Florida Veterans Foundation Chief Operating Officer Raymond Miller said. “We’re trying to get to the veterans and their families, some of it’s in reference to the county veterans service officer. That’s a trained person that’s able to sit down with them and discuss their claims.”
Family members or dependents also qualify for VA benefits.
For more information visit helpflvets.org or call or call the Department of Veteran’s Affairs at 727-319-7440.
For more information on eligibility requirements visit VA.gov/PACT.