PACT Act Legislation for Veterans Benefits

The PACT Act: New Benefits for Vietnam Veterans, Gulf War Veterans, and More!

Congress recently passed and the President just signed what is being labeled as the largest VA healthcare benefit expansion in VA history. The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Act to Support Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances, also known as the PACT Act, creates some pretty significant changes in benefits available to Veterans who were exposed to burn pits, agent orange, and radiation. It expands healthcare and disability benefits for many Veterans who experienced toxic exposures during their service.

Below we’ll discuss all the new presumptive illnesses and service locations that are now included as a result of the PACT Act. But first, it’s important to note that this law change will surely create a massive influx of VA claims. The VA is slow to process claims as it is, but they’ll surely be delayed with the expected 250,000 more claims coming as a result of the PACT Act. I’m not sure the VA is equipped to handle such a large influx of applications as a result of this new law, but we are here to help.

We certainly hope and expect that the PACT Act will improve research and staff education as it relates to toxic exposure to Veterans. But just know that there are going to be a lot growing pains with the VA as it tries to work through these new regulations and handle the influx of claims. As a result, you need to make sure your applications are complete and thorough when submitted. We’re here to help you with that. If you need any assistance with VA claims, email us at [email protected] so we can help you get your claim filed as quickly as possible.

What is the PACT Act?

The PACT Act expands healthcare and extends eligibility for Veterans with toxic exposure during the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and post 9/11 era. It adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures. It adds more presumptive exposure locations for agent orange and radiation exposure. It also requires the VA to provide toxic exposure screening to every Veteran who is enrolled in the VA healthcare system.

In the past when applying for a VA disability rating, you had to prove that your service was somehow connected to your disability. If you had a combat wound, that was pretty simple. But if you had toxic exposure or PTSD that created issues later in life, that was more difficult to connect to your service. These new presumptions prevent us from having to prove that service connection in many cases. If you have one of these presumptive illnesses and served in a a presumptive location defined by the VA, then you no longer have to prove that service connection.

PACT Act Presumptive Conditions for Burn Pits

There are 20 new burn pit and other toxic exposure conditions or illnesses that are now considered “presumptive” by the VA. This means if you have any of these conditions and served in the Gulf War or post 9/11 era, then you should qualify for benefits. The conditions that were recently added via the PACT Act include:

Cancers Now Considered Presumptive Under the PACT Act

• Brain cancer
• Gastrointestinal cancer
• Glioblastoma
• Head cancer of any type
• Kidney cancer
• Lymphatic cancer of any type
• Lymphoma of any type
• Melanoma
• Neck cancer
• Pancreatic cancer
• Reproductive cancer of any type
• Respiratory cancer of any type

Other Illnesses Now Considered Presumptive Under the PACT Act

• Asthma
• Chronic bronchitis
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Chronic rhinitis
• Chronic sinusitis
• Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
• Emphysema
• Granulomatous disease
• Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
• Pleuritis
• Pulmonary fibrosis

Presumptive Locations for These Cancers and Illnesses

As mentioned above, presumptive exposure defined by the VA depends on your diagnosis of one of the above cancers or illnesses and also your service during specific time periods or conflicts. Below are the locations and service periods for the above mentioned presumptive conditions.

Serving on or after September 11, 2011 in any of the below locations:

• Afghanistan
• Djibouti
• Egypt
• Jordan
• Lebanon
• Syria
• Uzbekistan
• Yemen

Serving on or after August 2, 1990 in any of the below locations:

• Bahrain
• Iraq
• Kuwait
• Oman
• Qatar
• Saudi Arabia
• Somalia
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Free Healthcare via the PACT Act?

Are you eligible for free healthcare as a post 9/11 combat Veteran? The quick answer is yes. VA healthcare eligibility is expanded based on the PACT Act to cover you. And you are encouraged to apply regardless of your separation date. Your eligibility will depend on the service history and the diagnoses listed above. If you meet any of these requirements, then you should apply and will likely get the benefits you deserve.

However, there is a strange caveat in this PACT Act bill. It states that if you meet the requirements listed above, you can receive free healthcare for 10 years from the date of your most recent discharge or separation. Now I’m not sure if this means that you’re limited to 10 years, but that doesn’t sound right. I’ve tried to contact the VA regarding this issue and have yet to get a clear answer. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.

PACT Act Benefits for Vietnam Veterans

Above we discussed new presumptive conditions and service locations for Gulf War and post 9/11 Veterans, but what about Vietnam Veterans exposed to agent orange? As a part of the PACT Act, the VA has added five new presumptive locations for agent orange exposure during the Vietnam War. These include:

• Any US 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, Krek, Kampong Cham Provence from April 16, 1969 through April 30, 1969
• Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962 through July 30, 1980
• Johnston Atoll or any ship that called on the Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972 through September 30, 1977

So if you served in any of these locations, the VA is now going to presume that you were exposed to agent orange. And if you have a presumptive condition listed by the VA, then you don’t have to prove the connection between your condition and your service.

PACT Act Benefits for Radiation Exposure

Lastly, I wanted to mention some new locations that have been included for presumptive exposure to radiation. They are:

• Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll from January 1, 1977 through December 31, 1980
• Response to the fire onboard an Air Force B52 Bomber carrying nuclear weapons near Thule Air Force Base in Greenland from January 21, 1968 to September 25, 1968
• Cleanup of the Air Force B52 Bomber carrying nuclear weapons off the coast of Palomares, Spain from January 17, 1966 through March 31, 1967

Contact Us So We Can Help!

We hope this article has been helpful to answer some questions regarding new benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic exposures during their service. We also hope you will contact us if you have any additional questions or need help with your claim that is now valid as a result of this PACT Act legislation. If you are a Veteran or a surviving spouse, you can file a claim now. Don’t delay, file now!

If you need assistance, please complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. You can also send us an email to [email protected]. We’re here for our Veterans and looking forward to helping them receive the benefits that they deserve.

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