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An Overview of the Pact Act and VA Compensation

As a result of the signing of the PACT Act in August of 2022, veterans who had toxic exposures during the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the post-9/11 wars are now eligible for health care benefits. It relieves the burden of proof from veterans, automatically linking some cancers, asthma, and other illnesses to burn pit exposure and more.

This act addresses an estimated four million US veterans deployed within the last thirty years exposed to burn pits and other toxic environments that caused lasting and sometimes fatal health conditions for which they filed claims and had to fight to receive benefits.

Now the burden of proof has lifted, and VA disability compensation will provide tax-free monthly payments to veterans with a health condition that links to burn pits or other specific toxic hazards in the water, soil, or air during their service. The PACT Act is an expansion of existing VA benefits and health care to veterans and their families that now includes presumed illness due to exposure to toxic substances.

PACT Act Law

The PACT Act may be the largest health care and benefits expansion in VA history. The formal name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The Act began to honor the Ohio National Guard veteran who died after battling lung cancer for three years due to exposure from burning trash pits during deployment to Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

PACT Act Changes

As a veteran or survivor, you can now file claims to apply for PACT Act-related benefits, which include the following changes:

  • Eligibility expansion and extension of VA health care for veterans exposed to toxins, including veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf, and post-9/11 wars
  • The addition of twenty-plus presumptive conditions for Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic exposures
  • Additional presumptive-exposure locales for Agent Orange and radiation.
  • VA requirements to provide a toxic exposure screening to all veterans enrolled in the VA health care system
  • Improvements in research, treatment, and staff education relating to toxic exposures

What is a Presumptive Condition for Toxic Exposure?

Generally, to get a VA disability rating, the condition must link to your military service. For many years and many health conditions, proving that your service caused your condition was required.

Now the VA automatically presumes some conditions to be caused by your service. Formal regulations define these presumptive conditions.

If you have a health condition deemed presumptive, you don’t have to prove it resulted from service, but you need to meet the service requirements of presumption. Each conflict era or war has unique dates, locations, and conditions that will define a veteran’s condition. VA resources provide eligibility details.

General VA Disability Compensation Qualifiers

There are three requirements to receive VA disability compensation, including:

  • Your health condition or illness diagnosis must be the result of exposure to a specific toxic hazard in either the water, soil, or air, and
  • Your active service duty was in a location that exposed you to the hazard, and
  • You were not dishonorably discharged

Well-Known Areas of Exposure to Specific Environmental Hazards

Some threats of war are well documented for exposing service members to toxins, including:

  • Burn pits and additional toxic exposures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other specific areas
  • The large sulfur fire occurring at Mishraq State Sulfur Mine close to Mosul, Iraq
  • Hexavalent chromium at the water treatment plant in Qarmat Ali, near Basra, Iraq
  • Waste incinerator pollutants near the Naval Air Facility at Atsugi, Japan

More presumptive conditions concerning burn pits and other toxins in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other specified areas continue to be determined.

Filing a Claim

You can file a new or first-time claim for these presumptive conditions online, in person, or by mail. If you have previously been denied benefits but are now eligible through presumptive conditions, you may file a supplemental claim to have your case reviewed again.

There are already more than 500,000 veteran claims for benefits filed under the PACT Act. While most of the claims are accepted, some cases receive rejection because of incomplete medical records or because their condition wasn’t deemed a result of their service.

A Disability or Veterans Affairs Attorney Can Help

Hiring an attorney to assess, administrate, and represent you is in your best interest. A disability or veterans affairs attorney can:

  • Assess your medical condition and military service records to see if you qualify for benefits under the PACT Act
  • Help you gather the necessary information to present when filing your claim
  • Ensure your claim is properly filed, whether online, in person, or by mail
  • Troubleshoot any issues that may arise with your claim
  • Formally represent your interests in an appeal if you receive a denial

Retaining the services of a disability or veterans affairs attorney can help with claims affected by the PACT Act. Contact our office at 1 (800) 680-1717 to make an appointment today to discuss the specifics of your case and get the benefits you deserve as a veteran of military service. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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