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Pennsylvania veterans hope PACT Act will bring more awareness of services

The bill will expand Veteran Association health care eligibility for veterans with illnesses caused by toxic burns and Agent Orange.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania veterans could soon receive health care they couldn't previously get. 

The Honoring Our PACT Act passed by the senate will expand the eligibility of Veteran Affairs (VA) health care to veterans exposed to toxic exposures.

Pennsylvania has the fourth largest veteran population at just under 800,000. Under the recently-passed bill, more than half of those veterans will become eligible for expanded health care through the VA if the federal bill is signed.

The legislation is going to give assistance to many veterans who have been wanting help for decades. 

“If you were denied service connectivity for an illness that you may have thought you encountered while you were in the military, and if those illnesses are now on this list of presumptives, you may now be entitled to benefits," Veterans Affairs Deputy Adjutant General Maureen Weigl said.

Among the long list of possibly related illnesses are more than a dozen cancers and a wide range of other diseases.

“You could have asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rhinitis, chronic sinusitis," General Weigl said. "All of those are now presumptive for Gulf War veterans, which never existed.”

The bill will also add more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation and requires the VA to provide toxic exposure screenings to every veteran enrolled in their health care.

Veterans at Just For Today, a nonprofit supporting current and former military members, say they hope the passage of this bill brings more awareness to local organizations.

“The VA does a good job at giving care to our veterans," said Navy Veteran David Parker. "But not everything is always looked at, some things are neglected.”

“People don’t understand how much support there is in York County," U.S. Marine Corporal Tracy Young said.

General Weigl says PA VETConnect is a great way for former service members to find out if they're eligible for aid.

“Reach out to your veteran's service officers at your county offices at your veteran service organizations," General Weigl said.

Corporal Young says it's the most effective.

“The most power that we have is local, in our community, grassroots stepping up, taking care of each other," said Corp. Young.

The PACT Act was passed the week of Aug. 1 by an 86 to 11 vote in the Senate last week and is expected to be signed into law as early as tomorrow. 

Local resources for veterans are listed below: 


- PA Vet Connect

- Just for Today

York County

- VFW Post 556: (717) 854-4710 

- American Legion Post 127: (717) 650-1616

- Mr. Sandys Homeless Veteran's Center: (717) 495-2924 

- Herkey Houses LLC: (717) 256-1761 

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