VA to host town halls nationwide and Pa., for vets exposed to toxic substances  

More than 90 VA facilities around the country, including sites in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are slated to hold in-person sessions

By: - December 6, 2022 10:28 am

(Photo by Scott Nelson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will host a series of town hall meetings in Pennsylvania and nationwide next week, urging veterans who may have been exposed to toxic substances while on active duty to take advantage of a new federal law offering them services and health care.

The benefits are authorized through the Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act,which President Joe Biden signed into law in August. The agency’s “PACT Act Week of Action” begins Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 17. 

More than 90 VA facilities around the country, including sites in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are slated to hold in-person sessions explaining the benefits to veterans and their families, the agency said in a statement. 

Millions of veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the post-9/11 military actions who were exposed to toxic fumes, burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation and other environmental hazards are eligible for coverage, the agency said in its statement.

WHERE: Philadelphia VA Medical Center, 3900 Woodland Ave., Philadelphia.
WHEN: Monday, 12/12/22, 12 p.m.-1 p.m.
SERVICES OFFERED: Health care eligibility and enrollment 

WHERE: Pittsburgh VA Medical Center, University Drive C, Pittsburgh
WHEN: Wednesday, 12/14/22, 2 p.m.
SERVICES OFFERED: Health care eligibility and enrollment

Veterans who attend the sessions are being urged to bring any paperwork related to their service, such as their DD214 form certifying their release active duty, and then “leave the rest to the VA,” the agency said in its statement. 

Veterans who are unable to attend the sessions can get more information and apply for benefits at, or by calling 1-800-MYVA411

Biden has long suspected that his late son Beau Biden’s death in 2015 from brain cancer was a direct result of his exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq as a part of the Delaware National Guard. 

Biden signs landmark bill aiding veterans exposed to burn pits overseas

“I was in and out of Iraq over 20 times,” Biden said in an August bill-signing ceremony of his prior trips to the war zone he took as both a U.S. senator and as vice president. “And you could actually see some of it in the air — burn pits the size of football fields, and incinerated waste of war such as tires, poisonous chemicals, jet fuel, and so much more I won’t even mention.”

“When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same,” Biden added. “Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.”

The VA has been processing claims at the fastest rate in its history, hoping to avoid a significant backlog as hundreds of thousands of veterans apply for health care and benefits under the landmark toxic exposure law Congress passed earlier this year, the Capital-Star reported last month.

The day after Biden signed the law, veterans set an all-time record for benefits claims filed online and more than 136,000 have applied for benefits under the toxic exposure law as of mid-November. Veterans and surviving family members applying could reach more than 700,000 in the coming months.

To address the surge in claims, VA is hiring more employees to provide health care and process applications, but officials do expect an increase in the backlog in the short term, the Capital-Star reported last month.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.