PACT Act includes $36M for new VA clinic in Tri-Cities
The Department of Veterans Affairs will expand and update services in the Tri-Cities with funding from Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, aka the PACT Act.
The controversial bill expands coverage for veterans sickened by toxic pit waste while serving the military. The bill was initially blocked by Senate Republicans but eventually passed. President Joe Biden signed it on Aug. 8.
The clinic will reduce strain on the Walla Walla facility, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, who included a provision for $36 million for the Tri-Cities investment in the bill.
The added funding will replace and expand services offered through the Richland Outpatient Clinic, 825 Jadwin Ave., Suite 250. It was not clear if the clinic will remain at Jadwin or move somewhere else in the Tri-Cities.
The expanded clinic will offer primary, specialty and mental health services to local military veterans who have long complained about the challenge of traveling to the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, according to Murray’s office.
“I believe strongly that no veteran should be driving hours to get the care they’ve earned. Building a new VA clinic in the Tri-Cities is going to help reduce strain on the VA in Walla Walla and really make a difference in the quality of care for our veterans right here in Central Washington,” she said in a press announcement about the Tri-Cities clinic.
Murray will face Tiffany Smiley, a Pasco Republican, in the November general election. Smiley is running as an advocate for veterans after her husband, Scotty, was severely injured by a suicide bomber while serving in Iraq.
Smiley tweeted support for the PACT Act in late July, calling the Republican decision to block it “unnecessary partisan maneuvering.”
In addition to funding new clinics such as the one in Richland, the PACT Act will:
- Expand VA health care eligibility to more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed post-911 combat veterans.
- Make it easier for veterans to be treated for toxic exposure.
- Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension.
- Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure.
- Add Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll to locations recognized for Agent Orange exposure.
- Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure.
- Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans and claims processing, workforce and facilities.