(COLORADO) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is encouraging veterans to get screened for toxic exposure.
The VA Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) serves more than 100,000 Veterans in the Denver
Metro, Pikes Peak and rural areas. Since Nov. 7, 2022, toxic-exposure screenings have been integrated into its primary care.
Of 37,000 veterans screened in the past months, nearly half had at least one exposure concern, according to the VA.
“If the doctor sees concerning symptoms knowing the veteran was exposed, they may do a biopsy earlier,” stated Germaine Franciosi. “It can change how the doctor plans that person’s care.”
Franciosi trains VA ECHCS nurses to complete screenings and in identifying and documenting toxic exposures with a focus on early diagnoses and treatments.
Veterans who were subject to toxic exposures such as burn pits or Agent Orange are encouraged to talk to their doctors so they receive appropriate care. Enrolled veterans will continue to get screened for toxic exposures at least once every five years.
On Aug. 10, 2022, the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, was signed into law. Under the new law, VA is recognizing more than 20 new presumptive conditions, including hypertension and various types of cancer and chronic respiratory conditions.
“VA will not rest until every Veteran gets the toxic exposure-related care and benefits they deserve,” said VA ECHCS Director Michael Kilmer.
VA began granting benefits for terminally ill veterans with a presumptive condition in December 2022, ahead of officially starting PACT Act-related claims processing in January 2023. Of the first 200,000 claims completed for veterans and their survivors, 80.5% were approved, according to
the VA PACT Act performance dashboard.
“They protected us, now we must protect them,” said Franciosi.
Veterans enrolled in VA ECHCS may request a screening by sending a message in MyHealtheVet or leaving a voicemail at (720) 857-2511. To apply for benefits or to learn more about PACT Act claims and care, call 1-800-MY VA411 or visit VA.gov/PACT.
For information on how to apply for VA health care, including the documents needed to
determine eligibility, visit VA.gov/health-care/how-to-apply.