As the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act becomes law millions of veterans suffering from illnesses caused by toxic exposures will be eligible for benefits.
The PACT Act, which covers veterans from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan, is the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic-exposed veterans in more than 30 years and addresses a broad spectrum of toxic exposures.
Veterans will now see additional benefits for exposures to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, additional presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure and provisions for victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
There are many pending questions about the new law and what it means. Here are some common questions and answers:
What changes will the PACT Act bring?
Answer: While some ailments caused by toxic exposure can present quickly, other illnesses can take years to manifest. This left many veterans outside their eligibility window to enroll in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and others struggling to prove a service connection because of the time that had lapsed. To address this, the PACT Act makes significant changes to the timeline veterans have to enroll in VA health care. The PACT Act:
· Increases the period of time veterans have to enroll in VA health care from five to 10 years following discharge for post-9/11 combat veterans.
· Establishes a one-year open enrollment period.
Additionally, the legislation codifies VA’s new process for evaluating and determining presumption of exposure and service connection — removing the burden of proof from the veteran.
Question: How do I know if I’ve been exposed to burn pits?
Answer: If you served in any of these locations and time periods, VA has determined you
have a presumption of exposure to burn pits or other toxins.
On or after Sept. 11, 2001, in any of these locations:
· The airspace above any of
On or after Aug. 2, 1990, in any of these locations:
· Saudi Arabia
· The United Arab Emirates
· The airspace above any of these locations
Question: What new presumptive conditions were added for burn pit exposure?
Answer: The PACT Act added more than 20 new condition, including a dozen cancers, which are now presumed to be caused by exposure to burn pits and other toxins. This change impacts Gulf War era and post-9/11 veterans.
These cancers were added to the presumptive conditions list:
· 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
Additionally, these illnesses are also now considered presumptive:
· Asthma that was diagnosed after service
· Chronic bronchitis
· Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
· Chronic rhinitis
· Chronic sinusitis
· Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
· Granulomatous disease
· Interstitial lung disease
· Pulmonary fibrosis
Question: What changes were made for Vietnam-era veterans?
Answer: The PACT Act added two additional Agent Orange presumptive conditions:
· High blood pressure (hypertension)
· Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
Additionally, five new presumptive locations were added for Vietnam-era veterans:
· Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from Jan. 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976
· Laos from Dec. 1, 1965, through Sept. 30, 1969
· Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
· Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off of Guam or American Samoa from Jan. 9, 1962, through July 30, 1980
· Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from Jan. 1, 1972, through Sept. 30, 1977
Question: What new radiation presumptive locations were added?
Answer: VA added three new response efforts to the list of presumptive locations:
· Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll, from Jan. 1, 1977, through Dec. 31, 1980
· Cleanup of the Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons off the coast of Palomares,
Spain, from Jan. 17, 1966, through March 31, 1967
· Response to the fire onboard an Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons near Thule Air
Force Base in Greenland from Jan. 21, 1968, to Sept. 25, 1968
Question: How do I receive these benefits?
Answer: VA encourages anyone who thinks they may be eligible for benefits and care under the PACT Act to file a claim. American Legion department service officers (DSOs) stand ready to assist veterans with their VA claims at no charge.
DSOs are trained by The American Legion to provide professional accredited American Legion representatives at the regional office, county and state levels with specialized training to provide expert VA claims and benefits assistance to all veterans and their families. To find an accredited American Legion service officer in your area, please visit www.legion.org/serviceofficers.
For more information on filing a VA disability claim, click here.
For more information on the PACT Act, click here.