Veterans receive new benefits after passing of Pact Act

There are new benefits for veterans from the VA this year. 

The new benefits come from the Pact Act, which was passed last year to help veterans who have been exposed to toxins mainly through burn pit smoke.

Michael Crouse an executive director with the Waco VA Office joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss the new benefits.

Michael Crouse: Thanks for having me, and I'm honored to speak on behalf of the largest expansion in VA history. 

Michael Crouse: What this act involves is significant changes to out veterans and survivors. It expands eligibility for va veterans with toxic exposures, veterans of the Vietnam War and post 9-11 era are part of this. It adds 20 or more presumptive conditions for burn pits Agent Orange and other toxic exposure, and it adds more location for radiation, it requires the va to add a toxic exposure screening for every veteran enrolled in VA health care, and we are asking vets to come in and enroll in the toxic trainings, and it helps us with research, staff education and treatment relate to toxic exposures. And so we want our veterans to file a claim now under the pact act for benefits whether it be health care or direct compensation.

Mike warren: Do veterans have to prove they've been hurt by these toxins?

Michael Crouse: With these 20 presumptive disabilities we assume by law that the vets who served in these areas and time periods that the condition is assumed to be related to these areas. So that takes the proof burden off the vet, and it's a presumptive disability.

Mike Warren: What is the first step for veterans?

Michael Crouse: Apply for benefits whether it's health care or BVA, and I'll have some info on that about where they can go for more information. But I'd implore them to come to our regional office or apply for benefits online or work with a service organization.