On August 2, 2022, Congress passed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act, otherwise known as the PACT Act. Its purpose is to provide Veterans exposed to toxins on the battlefield with easy access to the care they deserve and additional benefits.
President Biden’s first State of the Union address requested Congress send the bill to his desk to address toxic exposures that have affected our Veterans and their families. Let’s take a look into the bill as we answer the question, “What is the PACT Act?” and discover what illnesses it’ll cover.
What Will the Pact Act 2022 Accomplish?
The PACT Act is one of the most extensive health care and benefit expansion efforts ever put forth by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The new law will protect and grant access to generations of Veterans struggling with presumptive conditions related to toxic exposure. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PACT Act will bring the following changes to VA benefits and care:
- “Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras.
- Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures.
- Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation.
- Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care.
- Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposure.”
The PACT Act ensures Veterans receive easy access to high-quality health care and services connected to potential toxic exposure. For combat Veterans who experienced 9/11, the bill increases the period they have to register in VA health care from five to ten years post-discharge.
Additionally, for Veterans who don’t fall within that time period, the bill also allows for a one-year enrollment period, giving post-9/11 Veterans easy access to health care.
What Is a Presumptive Condition for Toxic Exposure?
In order to qualify for a VA disability rating, your disability must come from your military service. For the majority of health conditions, you need to prove that your time in the service caused your condition. On the other hand, for certain conditions, they automatically assume (or “presume”) that your condition was caused by your time in the service. Those are called “presumptive conditions.”
If you have a presumptive condition, then by law, you don’t need to prove that your time in the service caused your illness. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.
The PACT Act includes a plethora of illnesses, and as of now, legislation has removed the need to prove service connection for Veterans diagnosed with one of the 23 illnesses. That means Veterans won’t be required to confirm their illness was due to military service.
The PACT Act plans to spread VA benefits to over 3.5 million Veterans exposed to toxins. For example, Veterans with illnesses resulting from toxic burns and Agent Orange are on the record.
The list includes:
- Eleven respiratory-related conditions.
- Seven forms of cancers.
- Reproductive cancers.
- Kidney cancer.
- Brain cancers, such as glioblastoma.
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What Toxic Exposure Conditions Are Now Presumptive?
The VA has completed roughly 33,276 claims at the time of writing, granting over 25,000 Veterans and their survivors access to benefits for one or more conditions, providing over $93 million in retroactive benefit payments.
So how do you know if you’re eligible for benefits? Well, the VA added more than twenty burn pit and toxic exposure presumptive conditions established by the PACT Act. Here’s a list of presumptive cancers and illnesses:
- Brain cancer.
- Gastrointestinal cancer of any type.
- Head cancer of any type.
- Kidney cancer.
- Lymphatic cancer of any type.
- Lymphoma of any type.
- Neck cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer.
- Reproductive cancer of any type.
- Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type.
- Asthma that was diagnosed after service.
- Chronic bronchitis.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Chronic rhinitis.
- Chronic sinusitis.
- Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis.
- Granulomatous disease.
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD).
- Pulmonary fibrosis.
If you or any Veterans you know have been diagnosed with any of the following illnesses, you’re encouraged to contact the VA at 1 (800) 698-2411 or file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation online. Apply at VA health care now.
Suggested read: How To Apply for VA Disability & What You Need To Know
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