The PACT Act of 2022 is a bill that was introduced in the United States Congress on January 3, 2022, by Senators Tammy Baldwin and Rob Portman. The bill’s purpose is to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Act is vital to injured service members and their families exposed to toxic substances and contaminated water. The act provides much-needed resources and support to these individuals, including health care, financial assistance, and other benefits.
Ultimately, the PACT Act is essential in helping injured service members, and their families receive the disability benefits for the care and support they deserve at VA health care facilities and government-approved medical centers.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act
In May 2020, former Sergeant Heath Robertson died at 39. He succumbed to his three-year battle with malignant lung cancer. An investigation determined his life-threatening cancer was caused by exposure to burn pits when deployed to the Middle East.
Sponsors of the legislation named the bill after Robinson to honor him and all service members who put their lives on the line each day to protect our national security.
In August 2022, President Joseph Biden signed the bill into law, making significant changes to the disability compensation program, including:
- Increasing the amount of monthly compensation for certain veterans with disabilities
- Expanding eligibility for a monthly payment to veterans with traumatic brain injuries
- Providing more comprehensive assistance to veterans with disabilities for education and employment opportunities
- Establishing a pilot program to provide benefits for caregivers of veterans with service-connected disabilities
Many fellow veterans’ organizations have endorsed the PACT Act, including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Studies have found that environmental toxins disproportionately harm military veterans and their families. Exposure to toxic chemicals and contaminated water has been linked to health problems such as cancer, reproductive issues, and neurological disorders.
The Act also provides funding for research and programs to help veterans and their families to ensure they have access to the medical services they need.
Service Connected Disability
One in five veterans served in the Vietnam War era has a service-connected disability. This number is even higher for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Service-connected disabilities can be physical or mental and affect veterans and their families long after exposure during active duty and combat service.
The term “service-connected” means that the disability is related to the veteran’s military service, including injuries or illnesses during active duty and numerous conditions that developed later as a result of military service.
Some common service-connected disabilities include traumatic brain injury, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss, vision loss, and joint and muscle conditions. Veterans with service-connected disabilities may be entitled to receive disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The PACT Act of 2022 was passed to provide more support to veterans and their families affected by service-connected disabilities. The PACT Act includes provisions such as increased access to mental health services and expanded education benefits.
The Act is vital in helping veterans and their families get needed support. If you are a veteran or family member affected by a service-connected condition/disability, please contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.
Presumptive Service Connection
Veterans and families have been fighting for presumptive service connection for decades after exposure to harmful toxins. A presumptive service connection identifies the link between a veteran’s illness and their military service, which is presumed to be the cause of the illness.
In many cases, the government presumes that the veteran has the condition due to exposure to toxins, herbicides, or chemicals related to their military service. Many illnesses can be linked to military service.
The act allows veterans with certain illnesses to file a claim without providing evidence that their illness is related to their military service. The change in the law makes it easier for veterans to get the benefits they need and helps to reduce the amount of time it takes to process a claim.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefit
The DIC benefit provides financial assistance to the surviving family members of veterans who have died from service-connected injuries or illnesses.
DIC has been providing support to veterans’ families since 1944. Despite numerous changes to the program, its goal remains the same: to provide financial assistance to the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The need for DIC is evident in the numbers. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 58,000 veterans died from service-connected injuries or illnesses in 2019 alone. That means thousands of families are left grieving and struggling financially after their loved one’s death.
Payment for Funeral Bills and Medical Expenses
The DIC benefit is one way the VA tries to help these families cope with their loss. The benefit can be used to pay for things like funeral expenses and medical bills, and it can also help families maintain their living standards after losing a loved one.
Despite the benefits that DIC can provide, there are still many families who are not aware of the program or who are ineligible for benefits. This is often due to a lack of understanding about how DIC works or because they do not meet all of the eligibility requirements.
If you are a family member of a military veteran who has died from a service-connected injury or illness, then you may be eligible for DIC benefits. The best way to find out is to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs and speak with a representative about your specific situation.
New Toxic Exposure Presumptive Conditions For Veterans Exposed to Toxins and Chemicals
The PACT Act of 2022 includes new provisions for presumptive conditions caused by toxic chemical exposures. This means that if a person is diagnosed with one of these conditions, it will be presumed that the illness was caused by toxic exposure, even if there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.
This provision is essential because it will help ensure that those exposed to toxins receive the medical care and benefits they need. The new presumptive conditions are:
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Bone cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic OPD
- Chronic rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Granulomatous disease
- Head cancer
- Heart disease
- Interstitial lung disease
- Kidney cancer
- Lymphoma cancer
- Lymphatic cancer
- Neck cancer
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Prostate cancer
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Reproductive cancer
- Respiratory (lung) cancer
- Respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma
The PACT Act ensures that those exposed to toxins receive the care they need. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with one of these conditions, please contact us for more information.
Filing a Supplemental Claim
If you are a veteran diagnosed with one of the conditions on the VA presumptive list, you are eligible to file a Supplemental Claim for VA benefits. Contact an attorney to explore your legal options.
The VA’s presumption of service connection for these conditions means that the VA will presume that your military service caused your illness or injury, and you will be eligible for healthcare and disability compensation benefits.
To file a Supplemental Claim, you must provide evidence that shows a link between your illness or injury and your military service. This evidence can include medical records, lab reports, and statements from your doctor. If you have any questions about filing a Supplemental Claim, please contact the VA.
Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water
Camp Lejeune has a long and troubled history with water contamination. For decades, the government waited to publicize the toxic problem or inform the victims.
In 1982, officials discovered that the water supply was contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the government took any action, and even then, they only warned pregnant women and children not to drink the water.
Unfortunately, it was already too late for many of those exposed to the toxin. Studies have shown that TCE can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems.
In 2012, after years of lobbying by affected veterans and their families, Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Veterans Act, which provided healthcare and compensation for those affected by the contamination.
Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits: The Toxic Problem the Government Tried to Hide
The military has been burning hazardous waste in open-air pits in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. The fumes from these pits have caused severe health problems for soldiers and civilians alike, but the government has only recently taken action to address the issue.
The pits were initially established to dispose of trash, including plastics, batteries, medical waste, and even whole cars. However, the toxic substances released by the burning debris created toxic air pollution that caused severe health problems for those living near the pits.
Some of the symptoms reported by those affected include chronic coughs, respiratory problems, severe headaches, and memory loss.
Class Action Burn Pit Lawsuit
In 2009, a group of soldiers exposed to the burn pits filed a class-action lawsuit against the government. However, it wasn’t until early 2017 that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began to provide health care to those affected by the burning pits.
It wasn’t until November 2017 that Congress finally passed a bill providing funds for medical treatment and research into the effects of material burning pits.
So why did it take so long for the government to address this issue? One possible explanation is that they didn’t want to admit that their policies had caused grievous harm to American soldiers and civilians.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the government owes a debt of gratitude to those who have suffered because of the burn pits. And we should all be outraged that our military was allowed to expose its personnel to such dangerous pollution levels.
Korea and Vietnam Military Engagements: Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions
The United States military engaged in Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam and Korea for many years. The operation used herbicides to clear dense jungle areas and destroy crops the enemy could use.
However, these herbicides were highly toxic substances linked to many devastating health conditions, including cancer, birth defects, and other chronic illnesses. One of the most infamous herbicides used in these operations was Agent Orange.
For years, the US government denied any connection between Agent Orange and the health conditions of veterans and their families. It was not until 1991 that the government admitted Agent Orange was dangerous.
However, it was not until 2002 that the government finally began to provide compensation to victims of Agent Orange exposure. This compensation was woefully inadequate and did not provide full healthcare coverage for all victims.
The US government waited far too long to address the issue of Agent Orange exposure. Thousands of Korean and Vietnam veterans and their families have suffered due to this delay. The government must ensure that all victims receive appropriate healthcare and compensation for their injuries.
Va Disability Claims Processing for Veterans and Family Members With a Presumptive Service Connection to a Listed Condition
The PACT Act of 2022 improved the Veterans Affairs claims filing process for veterans and their families. The Act allows for a presumptive service connection to be granted to any veteran with a listed condition, meaning the veteran does not have to provide evidence of a causal link between their military service and their illness or injury.
This connection between toxic substance exposure and developing a presumptive condition is automatically assumed, making it easier for veterans to receive the VA benefits they deserve. The Act also ensures that family members of veterans who die from a listed condition are also granted benefits. This helps to ensure that families receive the support they need after losing a loved one.
The PACT Act is crucial in ensuring our veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve. It helps to make the process easier and faster and ensures that families are taken care of when needed.
The Act includes many conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Other conditions include Gulf War Illness and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These are two conditions that many veterans struggle with daily.
The VA is committed to providing the best possible care for all veterans, and the PACT Act of 2022 will help make this possible.
VA Health Care Eligibility involving Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, and Families Harmed by Toxic Exposure
Active military, fellow veterans, and their families harmed by toxic chemical exposures while serving active duty for training and inactive duty training deserve timely and accessible VA health care. The PACT Act of 2022 establishes a clear path to eligibility for these veterans, service members, and their families.
The PACT Act amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to make VA health care available to veterans, service members, and their families who toxic exposures have harmed.
The amendment allows these individuals to receive VA health and medical care without meeting the current eligibility requirements. This amendment is crucial because it ensures that veterans, service members, and their families harmed by chemical exposures have access to the care they need.
The VA is responsible for providing these individuals with the care they need, and the new law ensures that this responsibility will be met.
VA Disability Rating
As of August 2022, the PACT Act is in full effect. This new law affects disability claims and how much money veterans eligible for benefits should receive based on their disability rating percentage. The PACT Act ensures that veterans with disabilities are given the appropriate rating percentage and corresponding benefit amount.
Previously, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigned a disability rating percentage that may not have accurately reflected the severity of the veteran’s disability. Under the new law, the VA must now use a more accurate rating schedule to assign a rating percentage based on the extent of the veteran’s disability.
Accurately Rating Service-Connection Toxic Exposure Conditions
The rating schedule is a comprehensive list of medical conditions and their corresponding rating percentages. The PACT Act now requires the VA to pay benefits according to the rating percentage assigned to each veteran’s disability.
The new law will help VA employees more accurately assess the injured military service member’s health condition to determine their disability rating percentage, especially those with high toxic exposure risk activity during their service.
For example, a veteran rated at 30% disabled will be entitled to 30% of the monthly benefit amount. This benefit amount is based on the average monthly payment for all veterans with a 30% disability rating.
A Small Error Could Reduce Monthly VA Benefits
However, a toxic exposed veteran filing for disability claims after being harmed in active military duty must ensure their disability rating is as accurate as possible. Even a tiny error that lowers the percentage rating by 10% can significantly reduce VA benefits.
The passage of the PACT Act 2022 is good news for veterans with disabilities with high toxic exposure risks who have been diagnosed with a service typing connection condition. The new law will ensure that they are given an accurate rating percentage and receive benefits corresponding to their rating level.
The newly-released listed service areas for toxic exposed veteran benefits include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The PACT Act of 2022 establishes a clear path to eligibility for veterans, service members, and their families diagnosed with a presumptive service connection medical condition. This amendment is crucial because it ensures these individuals have access to the care they need.
The VA is responsible for providing these individuals with the care they need, and the PACT Act ensures that this responsibility will be met. This new law will help the VA’s workforce more accurately assess the injured military service member’s health condition to determine their disability rating percentage, especially those with high toxic exposure risk activity during their service.
The passage of the PACT Act 2022 is good news for veterans with disabilities who have been diagnosed with a service-connected medical condition. This new law will ensure that they are given an accurate rating percentage and receive benefits corresponding to their rating level.