HELENA — Veterans’ advocates say many people who’ve served in the military might not be aware of all the benefits they’ve earned. An event in Helena Friday aims to correct that.
Disabled American Veterans, or DAV, held an information seminar, intended to make sure veterans and their families have accurate information about benefits.
“These are benefits that the veterans have earned – and I go one step further because the spouses and their families have earned these benefits just as much, because they were the ones who were left here at home while the veteran’s off serving,” said Joe Parsetich, a Great Falls resident who is wrapping up a year as DAV’s national commander.
Veterans came to Friday’s event from as far away as Great Falls and Anaconda. Donald Snowberger, a 20-year Navy veteran who lives in Butte, was one of those in attendance.
“I thought I'd just catch up on some news and see maybe if I'm missing any benefits,” he said. “I think all veterans should do that.”
DAV gave an initial presentation. Then, people representing the VA, the state of Montana and other veterans’ service organizations were on hand to work individually with veterans.
Some of the big questions have been about the PACT Act, a federal law signed last August that expanded access to benefits for veterans who had toxic exposures during their service.
Charles Pugh, a national service officer with DAV, told those in attendance that 750,000 PACT Act claims have been filed so far, including about 3,200 in Montana. Of those, about 1,600 have been decided, and Pugh said more than 80 percent were approved.
DAV is encouraging veterans who may be eligible to file their PACT Act claims by Aug. 9, so they can receive retroactive benefits for the previous year.
“If they apply prior to Aug. 10 – an Aug. 9 cutoff – and they’re approved, they will get their payments all the way back to Aug. 10, 2022, so it's very, very valuable,” said Parsetich. “The PACT Act was the largest piece of legislation in the last 30 years to benefit the veterans.”
Snowberger said he had especially wanted to find out more about the PACT Act. He said he’s now going to look into filing a claim by that deadline.
“I was in that area over there in the Gulf War, and they just encourage all the veterans in that area to sign up and register and see if you can get the benefits they owe you,” he said.
If you’re a veteran and missed Friday’s event, but you still have questions, you’re encouraged to reach out to DAV. You can contact Pugh at (406) 495-2089. You can also find more information by going to benefitsquestions.org.