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'It's giving us closure': Central Georgia veterans to get expanded healthcare under new legislation

The legislation applies to veterans with toxic exposures, and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras.

DUBLIN, Va. — Expanded healthcare for veterans is coming, thanks to a new law called the PACT Act. The legislation applies to veterans with toxic exposures, and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras.

The medical director of the Dublin VA says it will help more than 3 million people across the country.

Greg Swars served in the Gulf War. He says the PACT Act helps put a name to a condition.

 "It's giving us closure. I get a cough every year that lasts for about three months and it's an unexplained cough," Swars said. 

Swars says he's one of the 200,000 that are suffering from Gulf War syndrome, a cluster of medically-unexplained symptoms. That's about a third of the force who went over to Desert Storm.

"There was so much dust. We had to do burn pits all the time, daily," Swars said. "Then as we got closer to Kuwait, the smoke from the oil fields that they were burning, it was like a day like this and it would be pitch black."

The PACT Act stands for the "Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics." There's more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures like Agent Orange and radiation.

"Illnesses that were potentially unexplained or things that have developed over time and have an inability to really prove that it was a result of their military service," Manuel Davila, the Executive Medical Director of the Carl Vinson Medical Center, said. 

Davila is says the act requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA healthcare.

"I hope that those veterans that are not getting care come in here and start getting their care, get it looked at, put a name to it, start getting your benefits," Swars said.  

Davila says out of the 49 counties they serve, 170,000 veterans don't receive VA benefits. He hopes to see that change.

The services will start October 1 in Dublin for those veterans enrolled in VA healthcare.

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