BERGENFIELD, N.J. (PIX11) – A veteran’s story of service could move you to tears. Just ask Arnold O’Callaghan.
“I’ve been through a lot,” said Arnold O’Callaghan, a three-time Purple Heart recipient. “I was shot in the stomach, and they sent me back from Japan.”
He was also exposed to agent orange in Vietnam. Like countless other veterans, his care at the VA has not always been on his terms.
“I had trouble a number of years ago,” said Arnold O’Callaghan. “It took long for them to process my claim.”
A lot of that has had to do with the VA’s limited resources, but a new surge of money is being pumped into veteran care. As part of the debt ceiling legislation, which was signed into law last week, members of the House, including New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-5th district), fought for and secured a $20 billion investment for the PACT Act toxic exposure fund, an increase from the originally negotiated number of $5 billion.
“The initial investment we made for our sick and dying veterans just wasn’t enough,” said Gottheimer. “We were leaving some behind and that, to me and to many of us, was unacceptable.”
Some of the PACT Act, which was originally signed into law last August, was renegotiated during the recent debt ceiling talks. The White House called it the most significant bill in history to address veterans’ exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances. It said more than 5 million veterans will be eligible for services, including expanded VA healthcare and disability compensation benefits.
“The outcome could have been detrimental to our veterans’ healthcare and our benefits that we all desperately need,” said Arnold O’Callaghan’s son, Arnie, an Air Force veteran who served multiple deployments in the 90s. “I was directly exposed to burn pits and toxic chemicals.”
He’s feeling grateful both sides of the aisle came together for him and his dad.
“The PACT Act is a great thing to happen,” said Arnold O’Callaghan.