Senate passes PACT Act; Biden says he'll sign
The Senate voted Tuesday night to pass a long-sought bipartisan legislation to expand health care benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service, sending the bill to President Joe Biden to sign into law. The final vote was 86-11.
Passage of the bill marks the end of a lengthy fight to get the legislation through Congress, as veterans and their advocates had been demonstrating on Capitol Hill for days. Many veterans were allowed into the Senate gallery to watch the final vote on Tuesday evening, CNN reported.
The bill would potentially provide new support for about 3.5 million veterans, about one in every five living in America today, according to Military Times. There are eligibility categories for Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans who faced exposure to toxic fumes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made the announcement after reaching the deal with Republicans who had blocked the bill from advancing last week while they sought to add cost-controlling amendment votes to the package. The bill, called the Honoring our PACT Act, was approved by the House of Representatives in July.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough released the following statement:
"Veterans who were exposed to toxic fumes while fighting for our country are American heroes, and they deserve world-class care and benefits for their selfless service. The bipartisan PACT Act will help VA deliver for those veterans — and their survivors — by empowering us to presumptively provide care and benefits to vets suffering from more than 20 toxic exposure-related conditions."
"To those veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors: you can apply for PACT Act benefits by filing a claim at VA, and you can learn more about the PACT Act at VA.gov/PACT or by calling us at 1-800-MyVA411. We'll be communicating with you every step of the way to make sure that you and your loved ones get the benefits you've earned."
"Once the president signs this bill into law," he concluded, "we at VA will implement it quickly and effectively, delivering the care these veterans need and the benefits they deserve."
Interested in working at Ford? This Aug. 9 event is for you
Ford Motor Co. and Hire MI Vet are collaborating to host a virtual event designed to match veterans and their families with jobs at Ford.
The informal networking event is 10-11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9 on Zoom. Video is not required to participate. Register here.
Hire MI Vet is a nonprofit organization that holds monthly networking events between veterans and employers in an informal venue permitting veterans to get to know the employers, ask questions and determine which employers are a match for them.
AARP provides valuable resources for veterans
Nearly 4 million AARP members are people who have served in the U.S. military. And many of the issues AARP focuses on for people 55 and older intersect with the critical needs of veterans and their families, as nearly two-thirds of all veterans are over the age of 55.
AARP provides valuable resources to help veterans make informed decisions in their pursuit of health care, employment, financial assistance and other needs that will empower them to live a fulfilling life.
One of the most important documents that AARP publishes is its Military Caregiving Guide. The 42-page document includes information, a glossary of terms, resources and checklists to help veterans, service members and their families find the caregiving support that they may need.
Read more in VA News.
Holland City Council member gives back to her fellow veterans
Belinda Coronado was 34 years old, with two daughters and a son, when terrorists bombed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Feeling a call to duty, she joined the Army and would serve from 2003 to 2010, including a tour in Iraq.
"The military cemented values I was already practicing daily," she says, "such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and, most important of these, personal courage."
Today, Coronado is a member of the Holland City Council and is an avid volunteer in her west Michigan community. She's particularly active in helping her fellow veterans.
"I want to bring a voice and awareness to taking care of veterans," she says. "They are the ones who volunteered for our freedom, and we all need to stand by the saying, 'No veteran left behind.'"
Read the full story on Coronado in the latest issue of Gather, a Michigan-based magazine focusing on veterans, first responders and others who serve selflessly.
Mental health resources help veterans, families
In partnership with VA, Salesforce has introduced a new training module to Trailhead, its free online learning platform, to give veterans and their families access to mental health research and information.
The new module, Veteran Mental Health and Resiliency Resources, expands on the software company's "Salesforce Military" program. Salesforce Military offers free, online training classes and certification exams at no cost for active-duty military, veterans and military spouses.
This new mental health resources module focuses on educating veterans and their families about suicide risks and suicide prevention, a top clinical priority for VA.
Read more in VA News.
If you're a veteran in crisis, call the new Crisis Line number at 988, and press 1. You can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the previous phone number – 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 – by text (838255), and through chat (VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat).
Learn more at the Veterans Crisis Line hompage.
American veterans captured in Ukraine sent to prison, family says
Two Americans captured while fighting with the Ukrainian Army apparently have been sent to a prison where they are spending all their time together, the family of one of the men said.
Alex Drueke, who was captured with fellow veteran and Alabama resident Andy Huynh in early June, told his mother about the transfer in a telephone call, according to a statement issued late recently by the Drueke family.
"He sounded strong and clear-minded. He said he and Andy have been moved to a traditional prison, that they are no longer in solitary confinement but that they are together now 24/7," said Lois "Bunny" Drueke, his mother.
Read more in the Alabama Daily News.
McDonough sidesteps calls for VA to provide abortion services at medical centers
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough earlier this week would not back calls to provide abortions at department medical centers even as he pledged to find ways to ensure women veterans have access to the services regardless of where they live.
The comments came just two days after 25 Senate lawmakers (all Democrats and independents) urged the department to begin offering abortions at VA medical centers to all veterans and eligible family members, in response to a growing number of states outlawing the procedure.
Since the Supreme Court in June overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, at least 23 states have started to place limits or already imposed restrictions on health care workers from providing abortions. Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas have near total bans on the procedure.
Read more in Military Times.
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