Robley Rex VA launches monthly PACT meetings

Robley Rex VA staff joined VFW Post 1170 recently to host a public Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (better known as The PACT Act) Information Meeting for Veterans, spouses and caregivers.

The PACT Act extends eligibility to Veterans with toxic exposures from the Vietnam, Gulf War and Post-9/11 eras while expanding eligibility for benefits to those exposed to toxic substances. It represents the largest expansion of VA benefits since the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill was enacted in 2008.

The meeting was part of VA’s nationwide PACT Act awareness campaign rollout aimed to introduce the new law to Veterans.

“After a great reception from our PACT Act Awareness Event in December, we immediately saw the need for monthly PACT Act meetings across the region,” said Dr. Beverly Frye, chief of compensation and pension. “There is a huge information gap that exists for our Veterans on what the PACT Act provides. “Getting to interface with our Veterans in a public setting greatly reduces potential confusion and misinformation about this law. More importantly, it enables our Veterans to access the benefits they deserve.”

Uumbro, retired military Belgian Malinois

Woman gives dog commands

Uumbro, 10-year Air Force Veteran

Among the nearly 60 Veterans in attendance was Dr. Shirley Meredith and her retired military working dog, UUmbro.

Following a neck injury during her time in the Air Force as a flight surgeon, Meredith now deals with chronic neck pain in addition to respiratory issues.

Meredith rescued UUmbro, a 12-year-old Belgian Malinois with a career in patrol, apprehension and narcotic detection in the Air Force, to provide her with gait imbalance assistance as her constant companion.

“In some ways, we have both rescued each other,” Meredith said. “While Uumbro helps me maintain my balance, I was lucky enough to rescue him after 10 years of service with the Air Force and numerous deployments where he ultimately faced euthanasia. UUmbro helps me immensely with my mobility. My hope is that the PACT Act will similarly address the respiratory issues I have from my time as a flight surgeon. I am also in attendance tonight to ensure that the Veteran community doesn’t forget the trauma that military service dogs like Uumbro face. We’ve both given a lot to our country and it’s important that his service to our country is recognized, too.”

Robley Rex VA has screened nearly 1,100 patients

Robley Rex VA has screened nearly 1,100 patients since last fall. In order to reach the 3.5 million additional Veterans that are now covered under the PACT Act, Frye says VA must reach out to those who are not enrolled in VA.

While Meredith is already enrolled in the VA, she was appreciative of VA’s public meeting to help her learn more about potential benefits owed her.

“Having the opportunity to speak with Dr. Frye and representatives from the Veterans Benefits Administration in one location is very convenient. The information provided was very helpful and I appreciated VA leading this important discussion,” Meredith said.

Find more information on the PACT Act.

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