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Gillibrand visits Monticello VA Clinic

By Joseph Abraham
Posted 3/21/23

MONTICELLO –– U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand first introduced Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in 2020 alongside a …

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Gillibrand visits Monticello VA Clinic


MONTICELLO –– U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand first introduced Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in 2020 alongside a bicameral group that included fellow elected representatives, activists, celebrities and veteran service organizations. 

The legislation, signed into law last summer, expands U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits for roughly 3.5 million veterans across the country that were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances during their service.

On Friday afternoon, Gillibrand spoke to a crowd of local veterans, VA employees, local officials and fellow elected officials inside the Monticello VA Clinic. 

Joined by U.S. Congressman Marc Molinaro, County Manager Josh Potosek, NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Monticello Mayor George Nikolados, Acting District Attorney Brian Conaty and District 6 Legislator Luis Alvarez (who chairs the Legislature’s Veterans Committee), Gillibrand said the PACT Act “corrects all the wrongs of the past.” 

“Any service member, any veteran who is exposed to any type of toxin is now covered under this legislation,” she said. “... You don’t have to be the one to prove what toxins were released, what was burned, what days you were exposed, which is a typical MO for a lot of VAs.”

Gillibrand said her office is there to help and available to speak to the VA or any agency on their behalf. She added that the veterans could also contact the VA directly, either by phone or by visiting va.gov/pact. 

“If you’ve applied in the past and were denied, you can apply again,” said Gillibrand. “Because of this law they now have to cover you and if anyone denies you, you call me because that’s not going to be tolerated.”

Molinaro thanked veterans for their service, as well as VA employees for all their work in helping care for them. 

“The PACT Act is an important expansion,” he said. “In fact, the largest expansion of service to those veterans exposed to toxins and burn pits in over 30 years. This was a major step Congress needed to make. I commend Senator Gillibrand for her leadership, and most importantly, we’ll continue to work with her and all of you to ensure that you have access to the support and services you deserve.”

“Each and every day, we have service members returning home from overseas,” Assemblywoman Gunther added, in speaking of the importance of the PACT Act. “They gave up time with their husbands, their wives, their children and their friends. It’s time they’re never getting back. It’s time that they spent defending us and our freedom. We need to ensure that we provide them with the healthcare they deserve. Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect us and it’s only fair that we, as a nation, take care of them when they return home.”

Stephen Walsh, Director of the Sullivan County Veterans Service Agency, told the Democrat that the over 150 PACT Act claims submitted by his office have been adjudicated “efficiently, effectively and correctly” so far.

“The PACT Act has created a tremendous influx of our younger veterans, which is something that’s been sorely needed,” he said. “It’s really increased the traffic through the office. Our claims submitted and all of our actions to the VA have quadrupled since it became law. It’s been highly effective in reaching the veterans community. It’s definitely stirred awareness, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”


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