In honor of Veterans Day, DTE’s Veteran Empowerment, Transition & Support (VETS) Energy Resource Group brought veterans and employees together for a meaningful celebration. During the event guest speaker Kevin Hensley, state legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Michigan, spoke about the PACT Act and its importance to veterans. 

The PACT Act was signed into law this August to expand VA health care and benefits for hundreds of thousands of veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while serving our country abroad. A burn pit is an area where waste is disposed of by burning. As a result of exposure, many people have developed illnesses, in particular, those affecting the respiratory tract. 

To help those impacted, DTE’s VETS ERG is making a $5,000 donation through Burn Pit 360, a veterans organization dedicated to improving post-deployment health outcomes for current and former military personnel. The funds will help secure a hyperbaric chamber for local Air Force veteran, Phillip Brooks, who has a severe chronic illness from burn pit exposure. The hyperbaric chamber will provide life-altering respiratory therapy and treatment. 

“This mission hits close to home for me because a good friend of mine lost his battle with esophageal cancer due to burn pit exposure while serving,” said Gary Tanner, senior technician, Planning and Design and co-chair of our VETS ERG. “This is a serious issue that not many people know about so I’m happy that VETS has taken this opportunity to spread awareness and share our passion around this topic.”  

Gary also explained that veterans who have developed a disability or illness from burn pit exposure have a difficult time providing proof, noting that approximately 75% of veterans who apply for disability resulting from this exposure, would be turned down.  

“Not all wounds are visible. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean they aren’t there,” said Gary. “Now, with the PACT Act, it takes the burden of proof off our veterans and they can receive the help they need.”  

The VETS’ main goal is to help improve a veteran’s quality of life after the uniform. They make sure veterans here at DTE are advocated for and are aware of the resources available, especially the PACT Act.  

Whether you’re a veteran or a civilian who supports veterans, show solidarity and appreciation for those who have served our country.  

Watch Fox 2 News’ broadcast of the event.