MUNISING, Mich. (WJMN) – U.S. Senator Gary Peters visited the Upper Peninsula on Tuesday as part of his annual motorcycle tour across Michigan.

On day two of his tour, Peters and local leaders in veterans services gathered at the Alger County Veterans Memorial in Munising. U.P. veterans were invited to join Peters for the celebration of the recent passing of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The PACT Act expands Veterans Affairs health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.

“When you look at the overall PACT Act, we could be talking about three million veterans [who] may be impacted by not just the toxic burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the Agent Orange exposure plus other types of exposures that they had as a part of their service,” said Peters. “This is a significant piece of legislation, probably one of the most significant veterans benefits piece of legislation that’s passed in the last 10 or 20 years. I would certainly encourage veterans if they’re dealing with health issues they should reach out to the VA to see if they’re entitled to benefits.”

Through the PACT Act, veterans can get coverage for 23 health care conditions that were previously denied. It also requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care. These toxic burn pits have had long-lasting impacts on our own U.P. veterans.

“During my service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the base I lived on had burn pits, some of them burned 24 hours a day. While there and upon returning home, I experienced chronic sinusitis, headaches, and other symptoms as a result of that toxic exposure,” said Jason Wallner, veteran navigator for NorthCare Network.

If you’re a veteran or a surviving family member of a veteran, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits. For more information on the PACT Act or to file a claim online, please visit va.gov, or you can contact your local Veterans Service Officer.