The PACT Act addresses toxic exposures by expanding and extending eligibility for VA Healthcare for those who served in Vietnam, Gulf War, and Post 911 era wars.
“They signed the dotted line and wrote a check to the United States government, and part of the cost of going to war is the cost of taking care of those who went to war, no matter what that may be. If it was related to the war then we need to take care of them. That’s the promise America made when we signed the dotted line,” Michael Merit said.
Merit is among the millions of Americans who served in the U.S. military. As a marine, he served two years in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. He said he was exposed to burn pits and toxic substances during his service.
“There are so many different things that veterans are exposed to when they go overseas… be it for Vietnam agent Orange, Iraq and Afghanistan burn pits, explosives, diesel. You know different other kinds of things," he said.
Merit said he developed a respiratory condition and other health issues related to that exposure. He's also one of the thousands of veterans who've been denied treatment.
“You fought and bled for this country and lost friends over there and to come back and be denied over and over and over, it’s like a slap in the face, you know…why did I fight so hard for this country only to be pushed aside and say okay thanks for your service, we’re going to move on,” Merit said.
He's not the only one. The AP reports about 70 percent of claims related to toxic burn pit exposure are denied.
Once the PACT Act of 2022 is signed into law, that will change. It will expand VA healthcare eligibility, adding 20 new conditions for burn pit and toxic exposure, including respiratory cancers, high blood pressure, and asthma so veterans like Merit will not have to jump through hoops to get care.
“This finally does that, and I applaud Congress for finally getting this through and taking care of our veterans,” Merit said. “The language in this bill sets it up so that from now on, anything that’s linked to any future wars, we don’t have to fight for… it’s already going to be listed."
While Merit considers this a big step forward, he told 2 News he's thinking of the men and women who died waiting to get the treatment they needed.
Merit said the VFW Post has seen a huge uptick in veterans asking if the coverage is already available.
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