Veterans’ Health

Project Title

Maximizing Veterans’ Access to New Health Care Benefits

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Veterans’ Health

Date Awarded

June 9, 2023





In Progress


During their time in service, more than half of all military veterans were likely exposed to toxic chemicals and other airborne hazards, including burn pits with open-air combustion of waste.

Exposure has led to a host of health complications including respiratory illnesses, cancer, other chronic illnesses, and mental health challenges. Responding to veterans’ advocacy efforts, the federal government recently enacted legislation to address these issues. The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) expands eligibility for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care to any veteran with toxic exposure. A complementary policy allows every veteran, regardless of their previous VA eligibility, to get access to VA or private care for acute suicidal crises. Together, these policies represent one of the largest benefits expansions in VA history. However, many veterans, health care providers, local government officials, and veterans service organizations are unaware of the expansion and/or how to access benefits. In 2023, NYHealth awarded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) a grant to implement complementary training and outreach efforts across New York State to maximize the potential of these new health benefits. 

Under this grant, IAVA will develop and deploy a comprehensive training about the PACT Act that addresses eligibility, health and mental health service coverage, enrollment options, and complementary community-based services. IAVA will create training modules, informed by focus groups with veterans and veteran-serving organizations to ensure the content is relevant. Additionally, IAVA will work with New York State Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) to identify State-specific information and programs to integrate in the training. It will also cover relevant State-sponsored programs for veterans, including suicide prevention services, programs to address food insecurity, and legal resources. IAVA will conduct up to five in-person tailored trainings for all State DVS Veterans Benefits Advisors, other veteran-serving organizations, and New York Cares. It will also conduct targeted outreach to veterans across the State and develop an outreach script for New York Cares volunteers who make calls to veterans in New York City. Ongoing technical assistance will be provided to staff and volunteers. To evaluate reach, IAVA will work with State DVS to track the number of referrals to Benefits Advisors for enrollment assistance. 

NYHealth is also supporting a complementary initiative with a grant to New York Cares