Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and Congressmember Salud Carbajal visited Santa Barbara’s Veterans Administration Clinic on Tuesday to talk with the medical staff about the new toxic exposure testing and treatment bill that President Biden signed on August 8. The cabinet secretary was touring clinics in Carbajal’s district — in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and the new Ventura clinic that opened on September 27 — to spread the word about the new program.
Carbajal was a co-sponsor of the bill, which McDonough said could cost $400 billion over 10 years. According to McDonough, the 3.5 million veterans who had tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced hypertension after being exposed to Agent Orange, were eligible to benefit from the testing and treatment program. McDonough, who served in the National Security Agency and as the White House Chief of Staff during the Obama presidency, encouraged all eligible veterans to file for the program, even those who were not sure they would qualify, because they’d be helping their “battle buddies” by completing the picture of the toxins they’d encountered overseas.
In the “Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics” (PACT) pilot program, about 40 percent of the 15,000 participants were thought to have been exposed. The exposures included burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation, and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, a VA flyer explained.
Vets can access care at VA.gov/PACT and 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411).