LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Over the past two decades, an estimated 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals in the line of duty. Now, a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Biden on Wednesday will help millions of affected veterans, including a Louisville man.
This man is Jeremy Harrell, and he would do anything for his country.
“We are focused on how to survive, win, and protect the nation’s innocents and each other,” said Jeremy Harrell, founder of Veteran’s Club Inc.
The last thing on Harrell’s radar while serving in the military was exposure to combustion fireplaces
“Besides acknowledging that he was constantly burning, I was like, ‘Did they take a break’, just random conversations, but I wasn’t worried about my health and I don’t think too many young 21 and 22 year olds are really worried about their health,” Harrell said.
Harrell is the founder of the Veteran’s Club, an organization that offers a wide range of programs for veterans, first responders and their families.
Prior to founding the club, Harrell spent nine years in the service with tours in Kuwait and Cyprus. However, Iraq was where he lived closest, about a football field from the burning pit.
“Engineers dug a crater in the dirt and that’s where we were taking all the trash around Ford’s base of operations,” Harrell said. “I remember that every day for about 16 months I smelled the smoke from the fireplaces.”
Thanks to the PACT Act signed into law by President Biden on Wednesday, health care will be extended to millions of veterans like Harrell exposed to toxins while serving overseas.
“I have respiratory infections frequently, sleep apnea, just a lot of different sinusitis, I have terrible sinus issues that I can pretty much vouch for between the sand and that’s part of it,” Harrell said. .
A sign of relief for Harrell as the future is unknown.
“When I think of the PACT Act, I think of the likelihood that I could develop one of the many types of cancers and, as unfortunate as that is, it’s a reality, so I’m glad there is a opportunity for me to get the help I need if this happens,” Harrell said.
It’s also an opportunity for the thousands of veterans that Harrell and his team serve at the Veterans Club.
“One of the other things we didn’t think about serving in the middle of a combat zone is keeping records of every time we had a headache,” Harrell said. “You know I know where I was during that time but I don’t necessarily know when I was exposed but now there’s no need for that. Now it’s assumed it was caused by their service in some countries.
Long-awaited justice for veterans around the world.
Spectrum News 1 contacted Robley Rex VA Medical Center and received a statement from VA Secretary Denis McDonough: “We couldn’t be more grateful to President Biden, who made this day possible by fighting like hell for veterans. of our country. Once the President signs this bill into law, we at VA will implement it quickly and efficiently, providing the care these veterans need and the benefits they deserve.
Veterans can now file claims immediately or learn more about new benefits at va.gov/PACT.