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VA reaching out to veterans interested in PACT Act benefits

Courtesy U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The regional director for the government's Veterans Benefits Administration held a town hall last week in Spokane.

More than 430,000 American veterans have applied for federal benefits during the last six months under the PACT Act. That’s the law approved last year that makes it easier for veterans to qualify for claims because of their exposure to toxic substances during their military service.

The act was inspired by the environmental disasters created by the burn pits in Iraq during the Gulf War, but it applies to men and women who served in other conflicts too.

Pritz Navaratnasingam, the regional director for the Veterans Benefits Administration in Seattle, says his agency is reaching out to veterans. He was in Spokane last week to lead a town hall meeting and take questions.

“What if I didn’t serve in a specific region? Can I still get benefits in the PACT Act?" he said. "The answer is we would encourage you to talk to a benefits counselor and file a claim because the PACT Act broadens the aperture, so to speak, on what we can look at and what we can consider when it comes to toxic exposures.”

He says his agency is working to investigate and settle claims within just a few months.

“If a veteran files a claim by August 10, 2023 and that claim is granted, we can retroactively pay benefits from the date the PACT Act was signed into law, which is August 10, 2022. So we don’t want veterans to lose any potential benefits and we want veterans to file claims as soon as possible," Navaratnasingam said.

His office continues to hire benefits advisors to respond to the demand. He says the government has paid out more than $81 million, so far, to satisfy PACT Act related claims.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.