HILLSDALE, Mich. (WLNS) — Gary Easterling is a 25-year army veteran and is the director of the American Legion.
“I’ve been taking care of soldiers my whole life,” said Easterling.
For Easterling, that means making sure other veterans get the benefits they are entitled to.
“If I can come in here and help one veteran today,” continued Easterling. “It’s worth it.”
It’s a mission that’s taking him across the state of Michigan with the American Legion to let veterans understand a new law called the PACT Act.
“This new law added over 20 new presumptive diseases for Gulf War veterans and two new presumptive for Vietnam veterans. So, this is huge,” said Easterling.
That means all veterans and survivors who believe they were exposed to the toxins like burn pits, agent orange, radiation or occupational hazards are encouraged to apply for VA healthcare and benefits.
Easterling said since the law went into effect last August, he’s seen a 35% increase in claims, with the majority of them being granted.
“They just have to show that have it and they served in a specific area,” he said
Randy Evans, Navy veteran and co-chair for the Hillsdale Veterans Coalition, said this is something every person who served should know about.
“I think it’s great because there’s a lot of resources out there, and there’s some that I didn’t even know about until we started grouping together and talking together,” said Evans. “I think that is so helpful to realize how much there is out there available.”
Easterling said if you were denied in the past, you can still re-open your case.
“We also go in front of a veteran’s law judge out of Washington, D.C. and fight these cases just like a lawyer would do but all of our services are free,” Easterling said.
The group is planning to make a few more stops across the state. They also do free screenings onsite.