The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) knocked it out of the park during a joint PACT Act event at Tropicana Field, August 5.
More than 3,500 Florida Veterans and families traveled to St. Petersburg to receive one-on-one assistance from a joint partnership by Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital & Clinics, VA Sunshine Healthcare (VISN 8) Network, and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Regional Office at St. Petersburg.
“Every Veteran deserves to receive the best care, and the PACT Act really puts all of this together,” said Bay Pines VA Chief of Staff Dr. Amin Elamin.
U.S. Air Force Veteran Marshall Duncan was one of many who were appreciative of the opportunity to move closer to qualifying under the PACT Act. “Everybody worked really hard for us today and did a great service for all of us who were here,” said the Korean War Veteran. “We appreciate the VA and what they’re doing.”
The one-year anniversary of the PACT Act is Wednesday, August 9, and VA has informed Veterans and survivors that filing a PACT Act Claim or submitting an intent to file by August 9 may allow benefits to be backdated to August 10, 2022, when the bill was signed into law.
“We’ve been able to take a lot of intent to file claims today, and we look forward to working more closely with those Veterans and families,” added the Executive Director, VBA Regional Office St. Petersburg, Juliana Boor. “We saw a lot of people today, and we know there are more out there who qualify, so please come see us so we can work with you to get you the benefits you’ve earned.”
Over the past 11 months, Boor added that more than $1.7B has been awarded across the country to Veterans and survivors under the PACT Act, through the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Leaders projected 500-700 attendees for the event, but the long lines formed more than an hour before the 10 a.m. start.
“We’re simply amazed by the turnout,” said James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital Director David Dunning. “The employees here were locked in and eager to help Veterans; and it’s great that we were all able to help them and their families get the service and care they need.”
Elamin, who served as one of the toxic exposure screeners for the event had a view of the entire area and echoed Dunning’s comments.
“Today was an outstanding turnout, with engaging discussion about the PACT Act and what these benefits mean for those who apply,” added Elamin. “Veterans have waited a long time for this opportunity, and you could see their happiness in being here and their appreciation for VA staff.”
The organizations also used VetFest as an opportunity to bring awareness about key services for Veterans including women’s health, mental health, social work services, the Clinical Contact Center, and partnerships with Florida Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cemetery Administration.
There are a few days remaining until the one-year deadline. Boor added that the regional office is standing by to welcome Veterans, families, and survivors to their location at 9500 Bay Pines Blvd. St. Petersburg, Fla.
Learn more about the PACT Act, applying for benefits, and the continuation of support for Veterans, families, and survivors, with information provided in English and Spanish, here.
See photos from the event, located on our Facebook account here.