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What does the PACT Act mean for Idaho veterans?

Just signed into law this week, the new law will improve veteran benefits.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho veterans will now have more comprehensive healthcare options after the passing of the PACT act, President Biden signed it into law this week.

“Veterans need to know that this is a law that has been signed and will increase the emphasis and eligibility for veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances,” said David Wood, the Medical Center Director at the V.A. in Boise

Wood explains, the new law expands coverage for vets that may have been exposed to dangerous chemicals in a variety of settings around the world.

“So chemicals, radiation, any kind of warfare type agents used within the war. It includes exposure to harsh chemicals, etc.,” Wood said.

The law is brand new, so it will take some time for VA operations to get everything into place and up to speed. For now, though, Wood said there are three big things Idaho veterans should know. For starters, they really want veterans to enroll for healthcare coverage.

“There's going to be assessments done of veterans for chemical exposure. And so we want them to participate in those assessments to see if they have any symptoms or any exposure that might entitle them to veterans benefits,” Wood said.

If veterans think they were exposed to dangerous chemicals that impacted them, they can file a claim with the VA. Care and screenings are not a one-time thing either.

“Every five years is basically what's written into the law. And so, we don't know all the details about how those screenings are going to occur right now. But we know that it's every five years, and I assume it'll be some questions. It may be some blood tests or some additional types of clinical screening,” Wood said.  

The new resources will not cost veterans.

“This won't cost the veterans anything. Basically, it is an expansion of care. So it is something that we owe veterans because of their service and because they were potentially exposed to these chemicals when they were in service of their country. And so there is a cost, but not to the veterans,” Wood said.  

So, what veterans are eligible?

“Vietnam, Persian Gulf and anybody post-9-11 is who are covered. This will really open the door to educating not only veterans, but also our providers here so that they can do these exams, so they can recognize these kinds of exposures. And primarily, it would be things like respiratory illnesses, cancers, those kinds of illnesses,” Wood said.  

Investments made in the PACT Act are also designed to help improve care deep into the future.

“Part of the funding for this law will be dedicated to research and researching different health conditions that are associated with exposure to these toxic substances and how we can better treat and really identify the impact of these exposures,” Wood said. “The feeling is that this is a good thing for veterans, that veterans will benefit from this, that it will be a for many veterans, something that they've been asking for a very long time.”

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