The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act is a significant expansion of VA healthcare and benefits for veterans with toxic exposures during their military service. The PACT Act impacts millions of veterans, ranging from those exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam to those exposed to burn pits in the Middle East. Here are the major takeaways from this groundbreaking new VA law:
- More Vietnam veterans are eligible for a presumption that makes it easier to win their Agent Orange-related claims.
- Two new medical conditions are added to the Agent Orange presumptive list.
- Many veterans who served in the Middle East can now easily service connect their burn pit-related claims due to a new presumption.
- More veterans with radiation exposure are eligible for a presumption that makes it easier to win their radiation-related claims.
- VA has established a new database to track military exposures, in order to improve research and benefits administration.
The negative impact of Agent Orange is well known and documented. Over the decades, research has revealed new connections to Agent Orange exposure in various locations. With the enactment of the PACT Act, VA will now presume that the following veterans in these service locations were exposed to Agent Orange:
- Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962 through June 30, 1976;
- Laos from December 1, 1965 through September 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 January 9, 1962 through July 30, 1980; and
Johnston Atoll or on a shipthat called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972 through September 30, 1977.
If a veteran served at one of these locations, it is now easier to service connect medical conditions due to Agent Orange exposure. With service connection, a veteran will receive disability compensation based on the severity of that service-connected condition – because VA recognizes that the condition is related to service.
In addition to expanding the locations of recognized Agent Orange exposure to these areas, VA will also add the following medical conditions to the list of conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure: hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).
Research demonstrates the negative health effects on veterans exposed to burn pits during their military service. Burn pits, which were military waste disposal areas, contains toxic materials such as chemicals, paint, metal/aluminum cans, munitions, plastic products, as well as medical and human waste. Research shows that toxins from burn pits smoke affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, and internal organs.
The PACT Act has established a presumption making it easier for veterans to service connect their burn pit-related claims. The following groups of veterans have presumed exposure to burn pits:
- On or after August 2, 1990, with service in any of these territories or airspace above these locations:
- Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- On or after September 11, 2001, with service in any of these territories or airspace above these locations:
The negative health effects of radiation exposure is well known. People exposed to a high level of radiation can immediately experience significant side effects. Many individuals exposed to low-levels of radiation do not experience immediate health effects, but their risk of developing cancer and other health problems over a lifetime is much higher. Many veterans are suffering from health issues related to their direct or indirect exposure to radiation during their military service.
The PACT Act 2022 expands presumptive service connection to veterans involved in specific incidents involving radiation cleanup. The following veterans may be able to easily service connect their radiation-related claims if their service involved the nuclear cleanup of the following sites:
- Enewetak Atoll from January 1, 1977 to December 31, 1980;
- Palomores, Spain from January 17, 1966 to March 31, 1967; or
- Thule Air Force Base, Greenland from January 21, 1968 to September 25, 1968.
VA’s Commitment to Research & Tracking
The PACT Act increases the VA’s resources to bolster claims processing and research capabilities. This involves the creation of the Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER), an online database intended to track various military exposures. These changes represent VA’s commitment to regular research and monitoring of exposure-related medical conditions in the veteran population. The changes created by the PACT Act are step closer to providing increased access to the benefits and healthcare for veterans. Rob Levine & Associates is committed to using every advantage in the law, including the changes implemented by the PACT Act, to help veterans get the benefits they deserve. If you are a veteran impacted by military toxic exposures, please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by our VA Disability Team!