BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In August, Congress passed the PACT Act, which will potentially expand health care and benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic materials by adding many new types cancers and illnesses the Veterans Administration must automatically assume were caused by exposure.

On Veterans Day, Amvets National Executive Director Joe Chenelly said people should be celebrating and appreciating those who served.

"In my mind, there's no more important way to do that than to compensate them, compensate veterans for whatever type of suffering they may have endured because of their service," Chenelly said.

Chenelly said the VA has already received about 140,000 new claims.

"We've been inundated as expected," he said. "A ton of veterans who we knew were qualified for these new benefits and care have been coming to us and we've been working with them to get them connected."

However, the VA won't begin processing new claims until the first of the year. The delay was intentional to allow the administration to prepare for the influx.

Chenelly said it has already hired 2,000 new claims adjustors and hopes to double that number.

"We think that's necessary," he said. "The VA thinks that's necessary and we think that's on the right path to be able to move these claims through quickly."

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the PACT Act's primary sponsor. She said the VA also needs time to develop the experts and medical expertise needed to treat the new presumptive conditions.

"We saw this with the 9/11 health bill. It took time to get enough specialists who understood the type of diseases, the lung cancers, the throat cancers, the stomach cancers, the brain cancers, to really have the right response for these people who were very, very ill," she said.

Approved claims will be paid retroactively to the date they were submitted. Gillibrand said she expects there will be some obstacles at the beginning but hopes the Veterans Administration will request the resources it needs so a Congress that passed the bill with bipartisan support can fund it appropriately.

"The word will get out quickly and there's always a capacity problem at the VA. The VA has been chronically underfunded for generations and so they're not going to all of a sudden be efficient and have enough doctors and nurses and mental health professionals to meet all the needs of all service members and all veterans," Gillibrand said.

Chenelly said an important next step is expanding the pre-cancer, post exposure screening which is required but currently just a questionnaire. Gillibrand said the medical monitoring should also include blood tests and physical exams.

"It saves lives and it also saves money so it doesn't matter how much prevention costs. Prevention is fractional related to what happens when you have someone who has to deal with a chronic disease," she said.

Gillibrand said the administration should be able to expand its screening program without further legislative action, Congress just has to fund it.