TOPEKA (KSNT) – Changes are coming to veterans thanks to newly passed legislation.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT Act, passed in August 2022. It severely changes what healthcare benefits look like for veterans across generations.

The act assists combat veterans that were impacted by Agent Orange, the Gulf War or were exposed to radiation or burn pits through their service.

With this change, the Veteran Affairs office is expanding benefits for those veterans – with updated disability claims and healthcare eligibility for those exposed to toxic air.

“We know that the Veteran’s in certain areas had toxic exposure screenings and may have these diagnosed health conditions already,” Occupational Health Supervisor Joleyn Owen said. “Our Veterans Benefit Administration will look back at those claims, and start processing them this month.”

The act adds 20 presumptive conditions, making it easier for veterans to access the updated benefits.

“It’s taking the burden of proof off of the veteran,” Public Affairs Officer Sarah Dernovish said. “So we’re now just presuming these are service connected conditions rather than requiring proof.”

The Topeka Veterans Affairs office says they’ve screened over 9,000 vets since November.

The local VA is traveling around Kansas to raise awareness of the expanded resources now available to veterans, with information on how to enroll, toxic exposure screenings and disability claims. Dernovish said you can find when and where those resource meeting will be held below:

  • Mayetta – Feb. 7, Prairie Band Casino, from 9 – noon at 12305 150th Road
  • Emporia – Feb. 11, American Legion Post 5, from 1 – 4 p.m. at 2921 W 12th Ave
  • Leavenworth – Feb. 28, 2 – 5 p.m. at 3450 S. 4th Street
  • Iola – March 4, 1 – 4 p.m. at 315 S. State St.
  • Sabetha – March 11, 1 – 4 p.m. at 16 Main Street