FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Veterans exposed to toxic burn pits may soon have access to healthcare and disability benefits. The U.S Senate passed a bill Tuesday that paved the way for the healthcare expansion.

Sgt. Maj. Lance Nutt is the CEO of Sheepdog Impact Assistance. He is a Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom veteran.

“We’ve all been exposed to a lot of different toxins whether that be oil or smoke during the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait or the burn pits from that period,” said Nutt.

Nutt believes this legislation should have been passed years ago.

“What’s sad is that it’s taken this long to do the things that we need to do as a country to positively impact the lives of our nation’s veterans and their families,” said Nutt.

The “Honoring our Pact Act” has been dubbed as the largest healthcare expansion in the history of veterans assistance. It will expand and extend eligibility for VA health care veterans who have been exposed to toxins in Vietnam, Gulf War and Post-911 eras.

The bill also adds more health conditions that may have been attributed to burn pits and qualifications for agent orange.

Ben Dykes is the director of Washington County Veteran Services. He said he’s excited for this aid to veterans, but there may be some hiccups in the beginning. In some cases, after filing a claim, it could take a year or two to reap those benefits.

“Don’t come in with expectations. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not a light switch,” said Dykes.

Another issue is providing evidence to support a claim of toxic exposure that may have happened 60 or 70 years ago.

“It’s not impossible, but you have to have your ducks in a row. You have to have your evidence,” said Dykes.

It’s also important to know where your military service records are.

“You should know where your DD214 is, but also, your family should know where that is,” said Dykes.

As a military veteran himself, Dykes is glad to see this push in the right direction.

“We’re moving the ball a little further down the field. More veterans are getting care, you know, and access to care for them and their families,” said Dykes.