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Iron Mountain's VA medical center spreads awareness of expanded health benefits under the PACT Act


About one in three veterans have reported that they were exposed to something toxic during their military service. Now, those veterans could qualify for expanded health benefits.

The PACT Act, which was signed into law in August, increases health care benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange or other toxic chemicals.

Robert Wollenberg, with the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, says the law introduces more than 20 presumptive conditions, like asthma or melanoma, that the VA will automatically assume came from military service.

“If you were in the right place at the right time, which many of us were,” he says, “if you have something that falls under one of these presumptive conditions, you’ll automatically get care for it no matter what.”

Wollenberg says veterans previously were left to cover that care on their own, so this law could have a major impact on the area’s veterans and their families.

“It’s been at least about 30 years since anything this big has become a law for veterans,” he says. “This is a really big deal.”

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is taking part in a nationwide effort to educate veterans about the PACT Act. It is holding an informational townhallthis Thursday at 5 p.m. to cover everything from who is eligible for the expanded benefits to how to avoid scammers. That session will also be livestreamed on Facebook.

The medical center is also offering toxic exposure screenings on Saturday.

Robert’s advice for those who think they might be affected: “Apply. Apply now, Apply often. Just apply.”

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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