President Biden signed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 into law. Known as the PACT Act, this is the most comprehensive toxic exposure legislation ever signed into law.
This new law will help many veterans who have been impacted by burn pits, Agent Orange, and radiation exposure finally get the compensation they deserve.
The VA PACT ACT will have a big impact on people’s lives, similar to when the original GI Bill was passed. This new law has the potential to benefit more than 5 million veterans.
If you’re a veteran who has been impacted by toxic exposure and you meet the new criteria, don’t hesitate to file a claim! You may be eligible for VA health care and benefits that were previously unavailable to you.
What is the PACT Act?
The veterans PACT Act of 2022 is a law designed to care for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service. The law provides expanded health care and disability benefits for veterans and their families. It will be phased into practice from the effective date (August 10, 2022) to October 2026.
The VA PACT Act has three main functions:
Expanded VA health care eligibility and disability benefits to veterans and families exposed to toxic substances. The law reforms the VA’s presumptive decision-making process and addresses three main types of toxic exposure: burn pits, Agent Orange, and radiation.
Reforms the VA’s process for adding and removing presumptive conditions to the VA’s list. This includes giving a timeline of 160 days to the Secretary of the VA to begin to add a condition to the list after receiving a recommendation.
Increases resources to the VA to bolster VA claims processing, the VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities to make sure the VA can take on the added responsibility of caring for veterans with toxic exposure.
Who is a toxic exposed veteran?
You’re considered a toxic exposed veteran if you participated in a toxic exposure risk activity while serving active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training, or are a veteran who deployed in support of one of these operations:
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation New Dawn
Operation Inherent Resolve
Resolute Support Mission
This increased eligibility for veterans expands care for the nearly 5 million post-9/11 veterans exposed to toxic substances.
Generation after generation of veterans have experienced toxic exposure throughout their service and are dealing with the debilitating conditions to this day.
Now, Congress has created a path for veterans to get the help they need.
The PACT Act and Presumptive Disabilities
The new law greatly expands the number of presumptive disabilities the VA recognizes. A presumptive disability for toxic exposure is one that the VA “presumes” to be service connected, even if there’s no specific Nexus for service connection. When you qualify for a presumptive service connection disability, your claim is MUCH easier to win.
In essence, Congress has made it much easier for the 20% of veterans impacted by toxic exposure to win their VA claims.
What does this mean for impacted veterans?
Instead of having to prove a service-connected disability, in most cases, you only need to show with your DD 214 that you were deployed to an eligible location for the different types of toxic exposure during a specific period, and that you developed a qualifying condition as a result.
The PACT Act also provides veterans with a medical examination to link a disability and toxic exposure risk activity, if a veteran submits a disability compensation claim for a service-connected disability without enough evidence.