Peters Met with Local Veterans to Highlight New Law, the Honoring Our PACT Act, Which Delivers VA Health Care and Benefits to All Generations of Toxic-Exposed Veterans
MUNISING, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) stopped in Munising today as part of his annual motorcycle tour across Michigan. Peters and local Veterans Service Organization leaders —who served overseas in uniform following September 11th – met directly with local veterans at the Alger County Veterans Memorial about the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which will deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans the health care and benefits they earned for the first time in our nation’s history. Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, helped pass the bipartisan legislation in the Senate and President Biden recently signed it into law.
“Today, far too many of our nation’s heroes are suffering as a result of being exposed to harmful substances like Agent Orange or toxic burn pits while serving in uniform, and we have a sacred responsibility to ensure they receive the VA benefits and medical care that they’ve earned,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, son of a World War II veteran, and former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “Many veterans have faced years and even decades without this necessary care, and it’s why I was proud to help enact the PACT Act to finally ensure veterans in Michigan and across the country exposed to toxic substances can obtain their long-overdue health care benefits.”
“Through my role in coordinating the Upper Peninsula Veterans Community Action Team, I work with Veteran service providers from across the UP to ensure they have the best information on-hand regarding VA health care, benefits and resources to share with the veterans in their communities,” said Frank Lombard, Veteran’s Program Manager for the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP). “And thanks to Senator Peters’ efforts to help pass the PACT Act into law, we can now get to work on ensuring impacted veterans in the UP are aware of the benefits now available to them. As a veteran who was exposed to toxic substances while serving in Iraq, this fight is personal to me, and I’m grateful to know that fellow veterans I served with and UP veterans will at long last get the care they deserve.”
“Far too many times, the veterans I work with were forced to run circles around the system or denied care completely because toxic exposure was not classified as a service presumption,” said Richard Jacobson, Veteran Service Officer (VSO) at the Marquette American Legion, Post 44. “The PACT Act closed this gap in the VA code and will ensure veterans suffering from health complications resulting from being exposed to toxic substances in the military can get the care they deserve. This legislation will also impact me personally as a veteran who served as a field medical instructor in Iraq post-9/11 and was exposed to burn pits, jet fuel, radiation, and other unknown chemicals. So, thank you Senator Peters for helping to get this bill across the finish line in the Senate and for your continued efforts to support veterans in our state – whether that’s accessing the health care they need, resolving an issue involving the VA, expanding opportunities for employment, or improving the discharge process.”
“It’s great to be here to highlight how the PACT Act is going to make a real difference for the veterans and families living right here in Alger County and across the UP,” said Jason Wallner, Veteran Navigator with the NorthCare Network in Marquette. “This bill is going to deliver needed benefits not only to veterans like myself who served in Iraq and Afghanistan post-9/11, but also our veterans who served in Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries that are now suffering from exposure to Agent Orange or even nuclear radiation. As a veteran who was exposed to toxic substances while serving in Iraq – this fight is personal to me – and I’m grateful to know that fellow veterans I served with and throughout the UP will at long last get the care they deserve.”
Peters is a strong advocate for Michigan’s servicemembers and veterans. Last year, Peters was inducted into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor for his efforts to support our nation’s veterans and military. In 2017, Peters was recognized as Legislator of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans of America for authoring the bipartisan Fairness for Veterans Act, which was signed into law. The legislation requires veteran discharge review boards to give liberal consideration to petitions for honorable discharge status if the servicemember has been diagnosed with PTSD, TBI or other related conditions connected to their military service. As of the fall of 2020, more than 1,500 veterans have had their discharges upgraded since his legislation was enacted.
To download photos from Peters’ stop in Munising, click here.
On day one of his motorcycle tour, Peters made stops in Muskegon and Traverse City. He will be making stops in Hemlock and the Lansing area to conclude his motorcycle tour.