Gillibrand, in Rochester VA visit, urges veterans to seek benefits from burn pits exposure

Posted 10 March 2023 at 2:38 pm

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

ROCHESTER, NY – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System Associate Director Shawn Defries, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Monroe County Veterans Service Agency Director Nick Stefanovic, and Veterans Outreach Center Executive Director Laura Stradley visited the Rochester Calkins VA Clinic to highlight the implementation of the recently passed Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022.

Passed in 2022, the PACT Act included Gillibrand’s signature legislation to establish a presumptive service connection to certain illnesses for service members and veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins, eliminating many obstacles they have to go through to receive crucial health care and benefits. It is estimated that roughly 3.5 million military personnel could have been exposed to burn pits and are eligible to receive benefits.

During her visit, Gillibrand and staff members helped veterans exposed to burn pits learn how they can access and apply for these new benefits.

“When the PACT Act was signed into law, it created one of the most significant benefits expansions in VA history,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Today, I’m visiting the Rochester Calkins VA Clinic to ensure our vets across Rochester have the information and assistance needed to take full advantage of these new health care and disability benefits. I fought tooth and nail to secure these benefits and now my office is here to help make the implementation process of the PACT Act as smooth as possible.”

Applying for Benefits FAQ

• How can I submit a claim? – Eligible veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances can submit a claim at

• What if I was previously denied? – The PACT Act expanded eligibility for VA health care and benefits, so even if you were previously denied coverage, you may now be eligible. Submit a supplemental claim to get the health care and benefits you deserve at

• Who is covered under the new law? – Veterans who served in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or the UAE on or after Aug. 2, 1990

Veterans who served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, or Uzbekistan on or after Sept. 11, 2001

• What illnesses are covered? – A wide range of cancers and respiratory illnesses are covered, including: asthma diagnosed after service, head cancer of any type, neck cancer of any type, respiratory cancer of any type, gastrointestinal cancer of any type, reproductive cancer of any type, lymphoma cancer of any type, lymphomatic cancer of any type, kidney cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, emphysema, granulomatous disease, interstitial lung disease, pleuritis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, pancreatic cancer, chronic sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, and glioblastoma.

• What benefits can I expect to be covered? – Just like the Vietnam veterans who fell ill from their exposure to Agent Orange, under this law, anyone deployed to one of the 16 identified countries during the Gulf War and Global War on Terror (listed above) who falls ill with one of the listed conditions will be able to go to the VA and get a disability rating. Depending on the rating, the veteran may be eligible for disability compensation. They are also entitled to free VA health care for their illness.

• What if I have additional questions?

  1. Schedule an appointment with a VA benefits specialist:
  2. Speak to a VA benefits specialist by calling: 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411)
  3. New Yorkers who need assistance securing their health care and benefits can contact: