Monday deadline approaching for toxic burn pit claims
Veterans exposed to burn pits and toxic chemicals could lose out on hundreds of dollars per month – if they don’t apply for newly available benefits by Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal warned.
John Gomez, of West Haven, is one of those vets. In Vietnam, Gomez was exposed to toxic Agent Orange. Several of his friends have died of cancer.
“A couple have passed away from it, yes,” said Gomez. “Personal friends.”
Because of his exposure, Gomez could qualify for added benefits under the PACT Act. Before the law, the Veterans Administration routinely denied disability claims for illnesses like cancer, unless patients could prove a link to their military service. Now, that link is presumed.
Comedian and former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart was instrumental in passing the act, even camping outside the U.S. Capitol for days.
“WHEN IN DOUBT, FILE”
But time is running out to file a claim. The deadline is Monday to receive benefits retroactively to August 2022, when President Joe Biden signed the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Any claims received after that will lose out on a year of benefits.
“I urge everyone who was stationed overseas during the Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and in the post-9/11 military actions, and suffers from one of the presumptive diseases, to file a claim with the VA as soon as possible,” said Alison Weir, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center.
Blumenthal had a simple message for veterans: get signed up, then get yourself to the VA Hospital to get screened.
“When in doubt, file. Let the VA tell you you're not eligible,” he said. “And then if you are, we'll contest it.”
In Connecticut, 4,600 vets have already filed PACT Act claims worth $9.8 million, according to the VA.
But many more people ran into technical issues, so the deadline was extended from this Wednesday until next Monday.
“TIME FOR ME TO HELP OTHERS” Gomez isn't sure he’ll file a claim, but he hopes other vets will.
“It's time for me to help others,” he said. “If I can get them to come in and get screened for these diseases, it's a plus in my favor.”
Click here for help filing a claim.