Pact Act benefits offered to veterans and survivors
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Veterans and survivors have until Wednesday, August 9 to submit a claim or 'intent to file' for the Pact Act in order to receive backdated benefits.
The Pact Act was signed into law August 10, 2022 by President Biden, considering it the most significant expansion to veteran health care in the last 30 years. The bill offers benefits to more than 3.5 million veterans and their survivors, who were exposed and impacted to burn pits and other toxins during military deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and surrounding areas.
For the last 13 years, Rosie and Le Roy Torres have been pushing for legislation of the Pact Act. Le Roy served in the U.S. Army for more than 23 years. After returning home to the states, he began experiencing severe headaches, fainting, and chronic lung and respiratory issues.
Rosie researched more information about the impacts of veterans who returned home from the service. She came across several stories in which service members were impacted heavily by burn pits and other toxic substances. Many of them did not having the proper health care to help with their conditions. After returning being home, Le Roy continued his service to the community by working for the Texas Highway Patrol. However, due to his medical conditions, he was let go after 14 years on the job. Rosie and Le Roy brainstormed and came up with a way to advocate for other veterans dealing with the same issues without the proper resources. That's how Burn Pits 360 was born.
“If you have money to send them to war, then you better have money to take care of them when they come back," Rosie said.
In that moment, Rosie noticed that more veterans were suffering from the affects of burn pits, but there was not an official registry stating the data. She created her own with the help of other spouses of veterans. Thousands of service members were signing the registry, showing her that Le Roy was not alone in this fight. More importantly, her own efforts revealed there was not a national registry through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
From this point on, Rosie kept advocating and took her concerns to state lawmakers in hope to entice national change. With troubles from legislators and other political spearheads, Rosie knew that she couldn't fight alone. She called on the help of comedian and actor Jon Stewart, who openly used his platform to show his support and push lawmakers to hear from the Torres' and other families.
Rosie and dozens of other supporters traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pay more attention to the needs of veterans who've risked their lives for their country.
"We went all the way down to the capitol and we sat there. We were leaving until we were heard. We slept on the steps for six days because if we didn't rest, the lawmakers couldn't rest," Rosie said.
Many of them help posters and chanted their push for change. After a combination of 144 hours, Congress finally made a decision to approve before sending it to President Biden's desk. He officially signed the Pact Act into law August 10, 2022.
“It’s a lot of pain, a lot of trauma, a lot of heartache for my family and all the families across our nation, letting them know we did it," Rosie said,"We did it together. My story is their story.”
While fighting his own fight here at home, Le Roy was delighted to know that his dedication to his country did not go in vein.
“It’s been the most bittersweet. Just looking back and fast forwarding these last 13 years of work," Le Roy said, "We didn’t fold and we didn’t give up because many doors were shut. Just hearing some of those stories from veterans that are grateful, it's just an honor."
So far, more than 87,000 Texas veterans have submitted PACT Act claims, per the VA.
There is no deadline to file general claims for the Pact Act. However, to receive retroactive payments dating back to the law's signing year, you must submit a claim or 'intent to file' by Wednesday, August 9. You can go to your local Veterans Affairs Office or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for more information.
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