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Widow of Kansas City-area veteran who lost battle with cancer relieved PACT Act is finally law

Matt and Elizabeth Gonzales
Posted at 10:09 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 23:14:41-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With a stroke of pen, President Joe Biden marked a hard-fought victory for our nation's veterans and signed the PACT Act into law on Wednesday.

The PACT Act expands healthcare access to veterans who got sick due to exposure to toxic burn pits used to burn waste at military installations overseas until about 2010.

"Many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same," Biden said Wednesday during a signing ceremony.

One of them was Staff Sergeant Matt Gonzales.

The Spring Hill High School graduate joined the Army Reserves in 2003 and was deployed during operation Iraqi Freedom.

In January 2014 Gonzales was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Esthesioneuroblastoma, linked to his tour. After a year-long battle he died.

His wife, Elizabeth, shared their story with us to urge veterans exposed to burn pits to speak up, and to see their doctors.

"To see how his body literally just disintegrated with every treatment and the progression of the cancer was difficult," Elizabeth Gonzales told KSHB 41 in 2015.

On Wednesday we caught up with her on the phone.

"It was discouraging that he had to fight again for his own health care after he had fought for the nation," Gonzales said.

She's relieved for the 3.5 million veterans who will benefit because of this law.

"Regardless of if they get approved for the healthcare the first time, or the 10th time to keep fighting, fighting for what they believe in and what they knew was right and reach out for support from others," Gonzales said.