SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said he was invited to visit veterans and tour Central Coast VA Clinics on Monday night.
McDonough visited veterans and toured the Santa Barbara Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic and the San Luis Obispo Veterans Center.
In Santa Barbara, McDonough talked about the importance of spreading the word about the Honoring our PACT Act.
The act signed into law by President Joe Biden in August takes the burden of proof off veterans suffering from 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers linked to burn pits and airborne hazards in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and other war zones.
He said Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, who suffer from hypertension, are now eligible for additional benefits because of the PACT Act.
"We anticipate over the course of the next 3 years somewhere around 4 million additional claims for benefits," said McDonough, " Because remember you can get both health care, and you can get compensation benefits."
The secretary, who is not a veteran, was the former Chief of Staff for President Obama and has worked on veterans issues for years.
He urges all veterans to get a toxic exposure screenings.
"A lot of veterans, you know a tough Marine like him, think that as warriors they shouldn't come in to file a claim shouldn't come in to get care because maybe someone else needs it, I am here to say to our veterans actually you are coming in to file your claim not only helps you but helps you battle buddies because we get a more complete picture of what veterans experienced in different situations," said McDonough.
The care will not come at someone else's expense.
McDonough also talked about knitting together the outpatient clinics including the new facility in Ventura is seeing veterans, prior to its official grand opening coming up in November.
The goal is to help all veterans near their homes.