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Veterans exposed to toxins eligible for more healthcare

Posted at 5:17 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 18:17:40-04

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Veterans throughout northeast Wisconsin can now get care they may not have had access to in the past. Local veterans are learning about the PACT Act.

  • See images of planes spraying Agent Orange, one of the toxic chemicals veterans were exposed to during the Vietnam War.
  • The PACT Act provides more opportunities for veterans exposed to toxins while serving in the military to receive screenings and other medical care.
  • Meet a veteran who received a toxic exposure screening in Green Bay Wednesday.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Veterans throughout northeast Wisconsin can now get care they may not have had access to in the past. I'm Pari Apostolakos reporting in Green Bay and I spoke to veterans about the PACT act and what it means to them.

Chuck Wellens spent 1968 serving with the Marines in Vietnam. He says he spent time in areas heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide used by the U.S. Military to clear foliage and eliminate enemy cover.

"When you're young you didn't give it much thought," he said. "But, as I'm getting older I'm finding out more and more of my friends, some of them I served with, that are experiencing the difficulties related to Agent Orange exposure."

Within the last few years, a law called the PACT Act has expanded healthcare options for veterans exposed to toxic substances. An information session was held at the Green Bay VA Clinic Wednesday afternoon.

"Through this legislation there's finally recognition that, through their service, veterans have been exposed, whether its hazardous chemicals, airborne hazards, fine dust particles for being in the desert," Zablocki VA Medical Center Executive Director James McLain said.

He said the PACT Act opens up care options for more than 100,000 veterans in Wisconsin.

"We want them to know we're here for them," McLain said.

Wellens received a toxic exposure screening at the VA clinic in Green Bay.

"Its peace of mind, not only for me but for my family," Wellens said.

Veterans also got to ask questions after the VA 2K Walk and Roll, which raised money for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Veteran Don Johnson participated to encourage fellow vets to stay healthy.

"And I encourage all veterans to sign up and use the VA benefits, your health benefits here," Johnson said. "These hearing aids, my health checkups, it's all through the veterans."

According to the Veterans Affairs website, eligible veterans can enroll now and they don't have to apply for disability benefits first.