Passed in 2019, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act helps veterans obtain disability compensation for illnesses commonly linked to certain periods and geographic areas of service. We’ll explain the PACT Act and what it means for Vietnam veterans.
What is the PACT Act?
The PACT Act makes it easier for veterans to obtain benefits for illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances like Agent Orange. It can also be called the veteran “burn pit bill” because it expanded access to compensation for veterans who served in areas near burn pits during the Gulf War and post-9/11 eras. These areas include U.S. bases in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.
How does the PACT Act apply to Vietnam veterans?
The PACT Act added medical conditions to the list of diseases the VA has established that can be caused by exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange. To receive compensation, a veteran only needs to prove they have one of these conditions and served during a qualifying time period in a specific location. The VA connects the rest of the dots.
The PACT Act also makes it easier to obtain compensation for survivors of veterans who died from illnesses caused by Agent Orange effects. These benefits are known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and access was expanded through passage of the bill.
What is Agent Orange?
Agent Orange is an herbicide used on American military bases in Vietnam and nearby countries during the Vietnam War. It contains “dioxin,” a toxic substance linked to serious illnesses and birth defects. Agent Orange is no longer manufactured or used, but its negative health effects are still being studied.
Because of exposure to Agent Orange, Vietnam veterans have frequently developed serious illnesses decades later. This time gap initially made connecting their illnesses to Agent Orange exposure difficult, but scientific research has made it possible.
What is presumptive exposure?
For example, if you served on a U.S. Air Force base in Kuwait during the Gulf War era, the VA assumes (or presumes) that you were close enough to a burn pit to be effectively “exposed” to the toxic smoke it emitted. Likewise, if you served in certain Southeast Asian countries during the Vietnam War, the VA assumes you were exposed to Agent Orange because it was frequently used.
The VA has determined when herbicides were used and where. All the veteran has to do is prove they served in one of those specified locations during the timeframes listed below.
A veteran is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served:
- Between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, in Vietnam, aboard a US military vessel in the inland waterways of Vietnam or on a vessel 12 nautical miles or less “seaward” from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia
- Between January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976, at any US or Royal Thai military base in Thailand
- Between December 1, 1965, and September 30, 1969, in Laos
- Between April 16, 1969, and April 30, 1969, in Cambodia
- Between January 9, 1962, and July 31, 1980, at an America Samoa or Guampost or territorial waters
- Between January 1, 1972, and September 30, 1977, at Johnston Atoll or a ship that stopped there
- Between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971, in or near the Korean DMZ
- Between 1969 and 1986, at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio
- Between 1972 and 1982, at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts or Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania
- Anytime in a regular Air Force unit location where C-123 aircraft with traces of Agent Orange was assigned (with repeated contact with the aircraft due to flight, ground, or medical duties)
- Anytime during which you were involved in transporting, testing, storing, or another use of Agent Orange
What is a presumptive condition?
Veterans who meet the above service requirements are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange. Not everyone who is “exposed” is eligible for compensation. You must have an illness that can be traced to Agent Orange exposure to qualify for service connection under this presumption.
The VA maintains a list of conditions presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. This list was expanded by the passage of the PACT Act bill and now includes the following:
- Cancers like chronic B-cell leukemia, bladder cancer, and multiple myeloma
- Hodgkin’s disease, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, some soft tissue sarcomas
- Lymphatic cancer like Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- AL amyloidosis
- Chloracne and related diseases
- Type II diabetes
- Ischemic heart disease
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
- Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
Visit the VA website to access the full PACT Act 2022 presumptive list.
Applying for Benefits
An attorney can’t represent you in your initial claim for benefits, but the VA has streamlined the application process.
To qualify for presumptive service connection, you need only prove two conditions. Firstly, you must have a diagnosis of a presumptive condition. Secondly, you must have served in one of the qualifying locations and time periods listed online. The VA will request most service and medical records for you as long as you cooperate fully in the process.
Does the PACT Act apply to me if I didn’t serve in Vietnam?
The PACT Act applies to veterans who served in Vietnam during the Cold War era and the Global War on Terror. You are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange if you served in a qualifying location and time period. You will be entitled to benefits if you have one of the presumptive conditions.
If you didn’t serve during a qualifying time period but were exposed to Agent Orange, you can still apply for disability compensation. You’ll need to prove that you were exposed to Agent Orange in service and that that exposure caused your illness.
What if my claim was denied for a condition that’s now presumptive?
If you believe the VA wrongly denied your claim, contact an experienced VA disability appeals attorney. You may be entitled to substantial back pay.
How do I know if I have a presumptive condition?
If you believe you have a qualifying period of service but haven’t been diagnosed with a presumptive condition, make sure you’re keeping up to date on your health checkups. The VA now provides free toxic exposure screenings at health facilities nationwide. A screening will determine whether you have a qualifying illness and what measures you should take.
Connect with Experienced Veterans Disability Appeals Attorneys
A veterans disability attorney is a valuable asset if you are appealing a claim denial or are dissatisfied with the decision. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, contact the Cameron Firm, PC, by calling 800-861-7262 or filling out the contact form on our website. We represent veterans across the country.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.