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Major changes coming to veterans benefits, here’s what you need to know

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Changes are on the way for veterans as new legislation passed.

The Comprehensive Toxic Substances Tackling Promise, or PACT Act, passed in August 2022. Dramatically changes the face of health benefits for veterans of all generations.

The act assists combat veterans who have been affected by Agent Orange, the Gulf War, or who have been exposed to radiation or burns during their service.

With this change, the Veterans Affairs office is expanding benefits for those veterans, with updated disability claims and health care eligibility for those exposed to toxic air.

“We know that veterans in some areas had toxic exposure screenings and may have already been diagnosed with these health conditions,” said Occupational Health Supervisor Joleyn Owen. “Our Veterans Benefit Administration will review those claims and begin processing them this month.”

The act adds 20 presumptive conditions, making it easier for veterans to access updated benefits.

“It’s taking the burden of proof off the veteran,” said public affairs officer Sarah Dernovish. “So now we’re just assuming it’s a service-related condition rather than requiring evidence.”

The Topeka Veterans Affairs office says it has screened more than 9,000 vets since November.

The local VA is traveling around Kansas to raise awareness of the increased resources now available to veterans, with information on enrollment, toxic exposure screening, and disability claims. Dernovish said you can find when and where these resource meetings will be held below:

  • Mayetta – February 7, Prairie Band Casino, 9 am to noon at 12305 150th Road
  • Emporia – February 11, American Legion Post 5, 1-4pm at 2921 W 12th Ave
  • Leavenworth – February 28, 2 – 5 pm at 3450 S. 4th Street
  • Iola – March 4, 1 – 4 pm at 315 S. State St.
  • Sabetha – March 11, 1pm – 4pm at 16 Main Street

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