President Biden on Thursday will highlight that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has doled out nearly $2 billion in benefits to veterans and their surviving beneficiaries in the year since signing bipartisan legislation on toxic exposures into law.
Biden will deliver remarks at a VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City to mark the anniversary of the signing of the PACT Act, which expanded benefits for millions of veterans who were exposed to toxins during service and are suffering illnesses as a result.
The president will note that the VA has delivered roughly $1.85 billion in PACT Act-related benefits in the year since, the White House said, and the VA has processed roughly 459,000 claims through the law in the year since it was signed.
In addition, more than 4 million veterans have received free screenings for toxic exposures from the VA because of the PACT Act, the White House said in a statement.
Biden will be joined at the event Thursday by Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. Passage of the PACT Act, and more broadly support for veterans, is part of Biden’s proposed unity agenda.
The House and Senate each passed the legislation in July 2022, and Biden signed it into law a short time later.
The PACT Act expands the Department of Veterans Affairs health care eligibility to veterans who served in the post-9/11 era and creates a framework for establishing presumptions of service connections related to toxic exposures.
The bill also expands presumptions for 23 burn pit-related illnesses, and the illnesses would be phased in over time. But Biden said that he directed the VA to make those conditions applicable upon his signature.
The cause is personal for Biden, who has maintained that his late son Beau Biden’s cancer was in part caused by exposure to burn pits while he was serving in Iraq.
Source: The Hill