PHOENIX — With approximately 500,000 veterans in Arizona, the VA is urging them to apply for funding through the PACT Act. 

On Jan. 1st, 2023, the VA began processing disability compensation and survivors' claims from the federally funded PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) Act, which expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. 

"We're noticing clusters of specific types of illnesses from some of our returning veterans from both our most recent post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the original Gulf War several years ago," Chris Norton, director of the Phoenix VA benefits regional office, said.

Norton stresses the act will significantly lessen the burden for veterans having to provide proof of their disabilities. 

"What the 'PACT Act' will do will allow us to presumptively provide service connection for a specific list of disabilities, 23 different disabilities, just simply as a result of them being in specific areas where we know they were exposed to burn pits or chemical," Norton said. 

The PACT Act covers 23 specific disabilities ranging from unusual cancers and respiratory conditions but does not limit service to those areas. 

"We're not limiting service connection to just these 23 specific areas…but the PACT Act also demands that we look to see what other conditions are out there that we're not yet aware of," Norton said. 

He encourages any veteran experiencing any disability they believe is due to toxic exposure during service to get screened through the VA medical center and file a compensation claim. 

The act works to replace lost wages due to disability but also expands access to healthcare through the VA. 

"This isn't just financial benefits. We're also trying to make sure that our veterans are medically screened for any disabilities that they might have and get into the VA medical system so that they can get healthcare to treat any disabilities that they have," Norton said. 

According to the Phoenix VA, more than 200,000 claims have already been filed nationally. 

Veterans can file a claim online or apply in person at the Phoenix Regional Office at 3333 Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012.