Klobuchar and McDonough Highlighted Bipartisan Law to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances

MINNESOTA - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Denis McDonough met with veterans and staff on June 17 at the Mankato VA Clinic, the Albert Lea VA Clinic, and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and highlighted the new benefits available to veterans through the bipartisan PACT Act. This landmark legislation was signed into law last year and expands VA health care and benefits for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War as well as for those exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan Wars. Across the country, the PACT Act increases VA health care and benefit eligibility for 3.5 million veterans. The law also includes provisions from Klobuchar’s Toxic Exposure Training Act to improve education and training for VA health care personnel. 

Veterans who may be eligible for benefits are strongly encouraged to file a claim at VA.gov/PACT or call 1-800-MYVA411. The VA is encouraging people to submit claims by August 9, 2023 to be considered for eligibility for 12 months of backdated compensation. You can also reach out to Senator Klobuchar’s office at assistance@klobuchar.senate.gov or 612-727-5220 for more information and assistance making a claim. 

“When we ask our young men and women to defend our nation, we make a promise to be there for them when they return home. We saw this promise in action through the VA Clinic and VA Hospital staff’s dedication and commitment to caring for our veterans in Mankato, Albert Lea, and Minneapolis,” said Klobuchar. “In Congress, we’re working to uphold this promise too, and we got one step closer with the passage of the bipartisan PACT Act. I fought for years for this expansion of care and benefits for the millions of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances. I want to thank Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough for joining me in Minnesota to meet with our selfless veterans and help spread the word.”  

“We’re really proud of our VA here in Minneapolis. We had a great visit to Mankato and Albert Lea. We were able to meet with our Veteran patients as well as our great Veteran health care providers. I couldn't be prouder of the job they do every day for our Veterans. Senator Klobuchar talked about this new law, the PACT Act.  She has led the fight to have this be enacted going back in 2016,” said McDonough. “We are bound and determined to make sure every Veteran, every Minnesota Veteran, has knowledge of and takes advantage of these benefits which they so richly deserve and this care which they have so richly earned.”

Klobuchar has long worked to support our military families, service members, and veterans. 

In April, Klobuchar and Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Servicemembers’ Credit Monitoring Enhancement Act, bipartisan legislation to provide free credit monitoring for all service members and their families. Currently, only active duty service members and members of the National Guard are eligible for free credit monitoring services. 

Additionally, Klobuchar recently introduced legislation to expand access to colorectal cancer screenings for toxic-exposed service members. The Barbosa Act, named after former Army Captain Rafael Barbosa, would authorize the Department of Defense to provide service members who have been exposed to burn pits or other toxins with preventive colorectal screenings. Under the PACT Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs now considers any gastrointestinal cancer as “presumptive'' or caused by service and exposure to burn pits.

As a member of the National Guard Caucus, Klobuchar has been steadfast in her support of the Minnesota National Guard members. She worked to create a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the National Guard and Reserves as well as improve federal-state military coordination in domestic emergency response scenarios. 

Klobuchar fought to secure regular funding to extend and expand to the national level Minnesota’s pioneering Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides community support to Guard members and their families throughout the deployment cycle.