Tomah VA holds event to spread awareness of PACT Act for veterans

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:32 PM CDT
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TOMAH, Wis. (WEAU) - For the past several months veterans have been applying for the PACT Act to get health benefits for illnesses developed as a result of their time in the service.

The Toma VA is working to spread awareness of the PACT Act and as their way of reaching out to veterans, they held an event at the Medical Center.

Dr. Sarah Niles, the assistance chief of medicine, said with the passage of the PACT Act the time has come to get those who put their lives on the line the help they need and deserve, starting with a simple screening.

“And that is the toxic exposure screening. Goes into your diagnosis, doesn’t actually require any proof. It just says this could have happened and we know that,” said Dr. Niles.

Prior to the PACT Act, veterans had to prove they got sick because of their time in the service. The rules have changed and veterans can now seek help at the Tomah VA.

“When it first got started we weren’t sure how many people were potentially exposed, how much concern is there going to be. So here we have screened, completed screening, and actually a couple more will be added to that today, on over 89 hundred veterans in our direct area,” said Dr. Niles. “And of those about 40% have screened positive.”

Randy Weber is a veteran who came to Wednesday’s event, he served in the Iraq war and wanted to know if he was eligible for the PACT Act benefits.

‘During the burning of the burn pits, we’d have to push it all together, and just stir it all up so it burns better. Every time there was an explosion you can smell the chlorite and everything else,” said Weber. “Every time you fired your weapon you can smell. Because, we weren’t wearing masks. Sometimes we weren’t even wearing hearing plugs.”

With how difficult the process in the past was, Dr. Niles said it could be hard to get veterans to apply for the help they need.

“I know a lot of veterans don’t like to come in and sign up for stuff,” said Dr. Niles.

Dr. Niles said the Tomah VA will try anyways.

“Please come and get screened. We’re learning more, we’re understanding this more, If you’re screened it keeps a record. It could mean you may need medical help in the future,” said Dr. Niles.

Veterans interested in the screen can make an appointment with the Tomah VA Medical Center.

Dr. Niles said the screening is for the purposes of seeing if the veteran is eligible for the PACT Act benefits and for documentation if the veteran needs further medical care.