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Veterans urged to call about benefits

HOUGHTON COUNTY — Joe Battisfore, director of the Houghton County Department of Veterans Affairs, would like local veterans, and surviving family of deceased veterans, to contact the Houghton County Dept. of Veterans Affairs (Houghton County VA) to learn about available benefit opportunities.

“Laws change, just like the PACT Act; situations change,” he said, “so it’s just important to come in, and we encourage all veterans, regarless of where, when, what, did they did in the Service, to come in.”

Just a few examples of changes that accompanied the passage of the PACT Act, the VA has added more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions based on the PACT Act. This change expands benefits for Gulf War era and post-9/11 Veterans, states a 2022 PACT Act Information sheet published by the Houghton County VA.

On or after September 11, 2001, in any of these locations: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan Yemen, The airspace above any of these locations. On or after August 2, 1990, in any of these locations: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the airspace above these locations.

Additionally, 12 cancers are now presumptive, as are 12 recently added illnesses.

For Vietnam Era Veterans, the PACT Act has added to new Agent Orange presumptive conditions: High blood pressure and Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). The PACT Act also added five new locations to the list of presumptive locations for exposure to Agent Orange, including Thailand; Laos; Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province; and Johnston Atoll, or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll.

Battisfore said that probably the biggest barrier to veterans visiting the VA office, or receiving elegible benefits, is the veterans themselves.

“They disqualify themselves by saying, ‘Well, that probably doesn’t pertain to me,’ or “I don’t deserve that,’ and that’s really not how this works. We encourage them to call or come in.”

Battisfore said that thought is incorrect. It is is not “Us or Them” scenario; it is not a comparison between one veteran and another.

There are different rules about benefits for different periods, locations and service, he said, and everyone should come here so we can go over that with them.

“Even if not for now, but for later, so they know and have it in mind what is available out there.”

The PACT Act also brings the following changes:

n Expands and extends eligibility forVA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of theVietnam, Gulf War,and post-9/11 eras (see reverse for more information).

n Adds more than 20new presumptive conditions forburn pitsand other toxic exposures;

n Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation;

n Requires VA to provide atoxic exposure screeningto every Veteran enrolled in VA health care;

n Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures;

n Provides funding for VA Claims Processing, VA Workforce, and VA Health Care Facilities.

Battisfore said the best way to learn of benefit elibility is to call or visit the office, located in the terminal building at the Houghton County Airport.

Office Hours:

Monday: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Tuesday – Thursday: 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Phone: 906-482-0102

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