VA Changes PACT Act Process
Before the VA changed the PACT Act process, the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act required veterans who wanted to file claims for compensation for a presumptive illness to wait a couple of years for the legislation to go into effect. Burn pit and other victims would have to wait up to a year before they applied for benefits. Now, the VA has sped up the law’s implementation so veterans may file these claims immediately. As of October 1, post-9/11 veterans have one year to enroll in VA health care if they meet one of the following qualifications:
– Served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War
– Served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998
– Were discharged or released from active service between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013
Other eligible veterans include those who received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Service Specific Expeditionary Medal. Also included would be the Combat Era Specific Expeditionary Medal, Campaign Specific Medal, or any other award based on a specific combat theater after the Persian Gulf War.
The PACT Act Process And A List Of Illnesses
The law creates a list of illnesses that are “presumed” to be related to specific services in some geographic regions at certain times:
– 12 types of cancer and 12 types of respiratory illnesses due to burn pit exposure in the Gulf War and service in Afghanistan and Iraq
– hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) for Vietnam veterans
– radiation-related illnesses for veterans who served in additional locations to those already covered in the 1960s and 1970s
The VA is already chronically understaffed and overwhelmed with claims for benefits. Critics fear the accelerated timetable will increase the VA’s already-considerable claims backlog and ask too much of already-overworked VA staffers. VA Secretary Denis McDonough brushed off these concerns.
“We’ll bring generations of new vets into VA health care and increase the health care benefits of many more,” he told the American Legion National Convention in August 2022.
“That will result in better health outcomes across the board. We’ll deliver benefits to more survivors of vets who passed away from toxic exposure. And we’ll invest in our workforce and our infrastructure to deliver those additional services,” he added.
Officials expect over a half-million Vietnam veterans to apply for benefits for hypertension (high blood pressure). 200,000 Southwest Asia veterans added their names to the Burn Pit Registry in the mid-2010s.
The VA will begin processing the new claims on January 1, 2023. The VA is implementing the necessary regulations for these cases and attempting to hire more staff to handle the workload. Eligible veterans or their surviving families can apply for these benefits online or call 800-698-2411.
Until around 1990, the Veterans Administration steadfastly denied that Agent Orange exposure caused severe illnesses. Then, the VA reluctantly gave some veterans a chance to apply for disability benefits for some conditions. These veterans were usually individuals who were boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam during the 1960s. These conditions were usually either fatal or extremely rare.
Then, the VA slightly expanded eligibility. It allowed additional veterans, such as “blue water” veterans who served on offshore vessels, to file presumptive claims for various illnesses.
The PACT Act expands both categories even further. Now, all veterans who served in the Vietnam theater, including Thailand, American Samoa, Guam, and the Johnson Atoll, are on the presumptive eligibility list. This act also adds two more common conditions, high blood pressure, and MGUS, to the presumptive list.
On a related note, the PACT Act added the radiation presumption for veterans who served in certain cleanup operations.
Any veteran can file a claim for Agent Orange or other Vietnam-era disability. These claims are harder to prove if the veteran or the disability is not on the presumptive list.
Gulf War Veterans/War on Terror Veterans
Veterans who served in the Iraq theater during the 1990s (Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or the UAE) and in Southwest Asia after 9/11 (Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan, or Yemen) are eligible for presumptive burn pit coverage. The presumptive illnesses include:
– Most kinds of cancer,
– Asthma that doctors diagnosed after service,
– Chronic bronchitis,
– Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
– Also Chronic rhinitis,
– And Chronic sinusitis,
– Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis,
– Granulomatous disease,
– Interstitial lung disease (ILD),
– Pulmonary fibrosis, and
Once again, a VA disability attorney may file claims for veterans who are not on the list or have a disability that is not on the list. These claims are just harder to prove since the presumption does not apply.
Reach Out to Thorough Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Consequently, it does not create an attorney-client relationship.