Area vets getting millions in aid following PACT Act passage

May 26—Vietnam War veterans are among local veterans getting benefits previously unavailable to them through the recently passed PACT Act.

Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission administration officer Bryan Suddith said Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission started processing PACT Act applications last fall and started receiving compensation since January.

Veterans who have filed for claims with the commission already have received a million dollars in compensation this year, he said. "Last year, we recovered $5.1 million on behalf of veterans and we attribute a good portion of that to PACT Act the last quarter of last year."

Approved in 2022, the PACT Act expanded VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. The PACT Act adds to the list of health conditions that the government assumes or presumes were caused by exposure to these substances.

"A lot of our Vietnam vets (that had) suffered one or multiple other diagnoses in the past had not received compensation, but the PACT Act reopens the door for Vietnam-era veterans who had been exposed before, but had been denied benefits because the list of diagnoses was a lot more narrow in scope," Suddith said. "So we're seeing a lot of those guys come back and reapply and we've seen a fair amount of decisions in their favor of compensation being awarded with some backpay."

David Weeks, commander of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter 9, which has more than 1,600 members across the Dayton region, said the PACT Act is "working great."

"I do a lot of claims for disabilities and has it gotten busy since we started the PACT Act," Weeks said. "One area that I ... was having troubles with having people approved for is people who were in the Vietnam War, but they were in Thailand, Guam and quite a few other locations and (were) exposed to Agent Orange and they would not get any help before, and they are now, which is great.

"Now we're able to give them the much needed disability stuff they need."

Suddith said the commission is eager to talk with Vietnam War veterans "because they spent so long applying for benefits that are denied and there's been so many changes around what's available to them."

"This has probably been the largest, one-time expansion in regard to Vietnam and Agent Orange exposure of the presumptive diagnosis list and care since the end of the war," he said.

Suddith said he is seeing an uptick in Vietnam War veterans coming to the office overall.

"We don't do anything specific for that era of veterans, but what we see them here for is filing compensation claims around Agent Orange, and the second most popular (reason) is medical transportation," Suddith said.

Also, the commission is seeing more Vietnam era veterans facing end-of-life planning and their surviving spouses seeking benefits.

Every Ohio county has a veterans service commission that provides direct aid and helps local veterans access available programs, such as the PACT Act.

Find your local office below.

Butler County: Butler County Gov. Service Ctr. 315 High St., 1st Floor Hamilton, OH 45011. Phone: (513) 887-3600 Fax: (513) 887-3519

Champaign County: 220 E. Court St. Urbana, OH 43078. Phone: (937) 653-4554 Fax: (937) 484-4084

Clark County: 117 S. Fountain Ave. Springfield, OH 45502. Phone: (937) 521-2030 Fax: (937) 328-2457

Darke County: 611 Wagner Ave. Greenville, OH 45331. Phone: (937) 548-5305 Fax: (937) 548-0579

Greene County: 571 Ledbetter Rd. Xenia, OH 45385. Phone: (937) 562-6020 Fax: (937) 562-6021

Miami County: 510 W. Water St., Ste. 140 Troy, OH 45373-2986. Phone: (937) 440-8126 Fax: (937) 440-8128

Montgomery County: 627 Edwin C. Moses Blvd. 4th Floor, E. Medical Plaza Dayton, OH 45417. Phone: (937) 225-4801 Fax: (937) 225-4854

Preble County: 1322 N. Barron St. Eaton, OH 45320. Phone: (937) 456-6111 Fax: (937) 456-1019

Warren County: 320 E. Silver St. Lebanon, OH 45036. Phone: (513) 695-2717 Fax: (513) 695-2975