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Service & Sacrifice: New benefits for military veterans and families

A military veteran went from $0 to more than $1,600 a month in benefits from the Veterans Administration.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One veteran of the war in Vietnam says he lived more than 50 years with the scars of war, before finally checking to see if he qualified for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I never thought I was eligible,” said Chester Anderson, who is a veteran of the war in Vietnam.

The Army mechanic turned 21 years old during his overseas tour.  Now, at 75 years old and facing mounting bills in addition to a growing list of medical problems tied to his military service, his wife convinced him to talk to their local veterans service officer

In 2014, he started to receive the healthcare benefits he was due as a veteran. And more recently, he just saw a bump in benefits due to the passage of the PACT Act by Congress.

Credit: John Becker
The memory wall for Vietnam veteran Chester Anderson

“That's what got me an additional 10% for hypertension,” said Anderson.

“We are now, for the first time, able to provide presumptive service connection for Vietnam veterans who are exposed to Agent Orange and have hypertension,” said Josh Jacobs, the undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “We're also able to care for veterans who served in the first Persian Gulf War, and more recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other surrounding countries, and have been impacted by their exposure to burn pits to burning oil wells by particulate matter and other things."

"The worst I could say is, 'No,'" said Anderson.

He was encouraging fellow veterans and their families to reexamine their options for the health benefits they are now due.

“Everybody that I've had any dealings with in the VA has been fantastic,”  he said.

Credit: John Becker
Chester Anderson is a veteran of the war in Vietnam who learned he was eligible for VA benefits 50 years after his military service.

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