Earlier this month, Congress passed the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which will permanently expand access to Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability benefits for veterans exposed to airborne toxins during military service.
The legislation will help millions of veterans suffering from service-connected medical conditions and provide federal resources for County Veteran Services Officers through the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act.
Arapahoe County District 5 Commissioner Bill Holen, a disabled Vietnam veteran who has worked closely on many issues affecting military veterans, applauded the passage of the new legislation. “One of counties’ core responsibilities is protecting and assisting our many veterans,” Holen said. “Being able to more fully address the health issues veterans face from having been exposed to airborne toxins during their service enhances our ability to serve more veterans with these health conditions.”
Qualifying veterans can work with their Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) to secure the new benefits. Arapahoe County has two VSOs, in Littleton and in Aurora. The Aurora office—located at the County’s Altura Plaza facility, 15400 E. 14th Place in Aurora—has served the 80,000 or so Aurora-area veterans since it opened last year. “Having this office in Aurora has made it much easier to serve the thousands of veterans who live in this area,” said Joshua Medina, the County’s VSO supervisor and a Marine Corps veteran. “These new laws will allow use to provide even more layers of much-needed services to our clients.”
Veterans Service Offices are county-level departments in each state that assist veterans and their families by answering questions, advising, and educating individuals and groups on what benefits are available from federal, state, county, and local resources. These officers also assist eligible persons with filing the necessary claims. The VSO’s accredited officers conduct the needs assessments, eligibility determinations and legal advocacy that are necessary to prepare and present claims and applications to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and whenever a veteran needs assistance that may be outside the office’s scope, the VSO team connects these folks with much-needed resources and referrals from local agencies and community partners.
For more information, please visit our VSO webpage or view the National Association of Counties (NACo) lists of veterans' resources.