Rep. Stansbury Convenes Veterans Resource Fair To Highlight New PACT Act Health Care Benefits

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury convened a Veterans Resource Fair today in Albuquerque to highlight the benefits of the Honoring Our PACT Act for New Mexico’s veterans. Courtesy photo

From the Office of U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury:

ALBUQUERQUE – U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01) convened a Veterans Resource Fair today alongside the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, and local veterans’ organizations to highlight the benefits of the Honoring Our PACT Act for New Mexico’s veterans.

The fair also was designed to connect veterans with vital resources including health care enrollment, housing assistance, vocational rehabilitation, and VA home loans.

During the resource fair, attendees had the opportunity to seek assistance with their veterans’ benefits and other issues with federal agencies, learn about how the PACT Act will benefit veterans across New Mexico in a presentation from Larry Campos, Congressional Liaison for the VA Medical Center and VA Regional Office Director Cesar Romero, and connect with local organizations offering resources and support.

“From the Navajo Code Talkers to the heroes of Bataan, to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, New Mexicans have a long and proud tradition of service that extends throughout our communities,” Rep. Stansbury said. “Every day, I am humbled to serve our veterans and our families in Congress. Honoring your service means action to fulfill our sacred obligation to ensure that you and your families have the resources and support you need to thrive.”

The Veterans Resource Fair builds on Rep. Stansbury’s work to honor the service of New Mexico veterans through action. In Congress, Rep. Stansbury voted to pass the landmark Honoring our PACT Act to expand access to health care and earned benefits for 3.5 million veterans. In December, Rep. Stansbury secured $300,000 for New Mexico’s first veterans transitional housing campus in New Mexico to support veterans and their families facing housing insecurity.

Further Details on the Honoring Our PACT Act are below and hereTo find out how to access enhanced PACT Act benefits, click here.

  • To ensure veterans can receive high-quality health care screenings and services related to potential toxic exposures, the PACT Act expands access to VA health care services for veterans exposed during their military service. For post-9/11 combat veterans, the bill extends the period of time they have to enroll in VA health care from five to ten years post-discharge. For those combat veterans who do not fall within that window, the bill also creates a one-year open enrollment period. These expansions mean that more veterans can enroll in VA health care without having to demonstrate a service-connected disability.
  • The PACT Act codifies VA’s new process for evaluating and determining presumption of exposure and service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence of a military environmental exposure and the associated health risks are strong in the aggregate but hard to prove on an individual basis. PACT requires VA to seek independent evaluation of this process as well as external input on the conditions it will review using this framework. The new process is evidence-based, transparent, and allows VA to make faster policy decisions on crucial exposure issues. This new process has already fundamentally changed how VA makes decisions on environmental exposures and ensures more veterans have access to the care they need.
  • The legislation removes the need for certain veterans and their survivors to prove service connection if they are diagnosed with one of 23 specific conditions. This greatly reduces the amount of paperwork and need for exams that veterans diagnosed with one of these conditions must complete before being granted access to health care and disability compensation, thereby speeding up their receipt of the benefits they have earned. This list includes 11 respiratory related conditions, along with several forms of cancer, including reproductive cancers, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and brain cancers such as glioblastoma. Survivors of veterans who died due to one of these conditions may now also be eligible for benefits.
  • To better understand the impact of toxic exposures, the PACT Act requires VA to conduct new studies of veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War and analyses of post-9/11 veterans’ health trends. The new law also directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to convene a new interagency working group to develop a five-year strategic plan on toxic exposure research.
  • Ensuring veterans get the care they need includes ensuring that they are screened for toxic exposure and that VA personnel have the appropriate education and training. The PACT Act requires that veterans enrolled in VA health care be screened regularly for toxic exposure related concerns. This new law also requires VA to establish an outreach program for veterans regarding toxic exposure related benefits and supports, and to require additional toxic exposure related education and training for VA personnel.
  • This bill also delivers critical resources to VA to ensure it can deliver timely access to services and benefits for all veterans eligible – including those already enrolled. The PACT Act provides VA with mechanisms to enhance claims processing and to increase the workforce. The bill also invests in VA health care facilities by authorizing 31 major medical health clinics and research facilities in 19 states.
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