US veterans urged to apply for retroactive toxic exposure benefits by Aug. 9

By Andrea Shalal

RUMFORD, Maine (Reuters) – U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough urged veterans across the country to apply by Wednesday to get an extra year of retroactive benefits under a new law passed last year to aid veterans sickened by gases from military toxic burn pits.

McDonough told dozens of veterans in Rumford, Maine, they could get an additional year of benefits worth up to thousands of dollars per month if they filed a claim, or their intention to do so, by Aug. 9. Claims can still be filed after that, but will only take effect from the date the claim is filed.

“War is hell,” McDonough said. “What we know now is exposure to those burn pits, and exposure to particulate matter, especially in the deserts of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan … has real health effects on our veterans.”

McDonough is taking part in a travel blitz by senior cabinet members and President Joe Biden to tout the benefits of the veterans law, or PACT Act, and other legislation enacted during Biden’s tenure.

He said more than 800,000 veterans across the country had applied for the benefits, with some 450,000 claims already assessed and 80% of those claims being granted.

The U.S. military used burn pits to dispose of waste on foreign bases until the mid-2010s. Fumes from burning everything from rubber, chemical waste, and ammunitions to human feces have caused rare cancers and respiratory illnesses in veterans.

The bill is expected to cost an estimated $180 billion over the first four years. It would benefit nearly 3.5 million veterans who developed cancer and other illnesses after being exposed to fumes from the pits.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Leave a Comment