The PACT Act, signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022, is an expansion of the benefits and services afforded to veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during their military service as well as their survivors.
The PACT Act:
- Expands VA Health Care eligibility to veterans with toxic substance exposure and veterans of the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the post-9/11 era
- Adds 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pit and toxic substance exposure
- Adds additional presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange
- Requires that the VA screen every veteran enrolled in VA Health Care for toxic exposures
What conditions are now presumptive?
For Gulf War and post-9/11 era veterans exposed to burn pits or other toxic substances:
- The following cancers are now presumptive: brain, gastrointestinal, head, kidney, lymphatic, neck, pancreatic, reproductive, and respiratory cancers; as well as glioblastoma and lymphoma
- The following conditions are now presumptive: asthma (diagnosed after service), chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, emphysema, granulomatous disease, interstitial lung disease, pleuritis, pulmonary fibrosis, and sarcoidosis
For Vietnam era veterans exposed to Agent Orange:
- The following conditions are now presumptive: high blood pressure, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
What exposure locations are now presumptive?
For burn pit exposure:
- Service on or after September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan, Yemen, or airspace above any of the aforementioned countries
- Service on or after August 2, 1990, in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, or airspace above any of the aforementioned countries
For Agent Orange exposure:
- Any United States or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, to June 30, 1976
- Laos from December 1, 1965, to September 30, 1969
- Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, to April 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa, or their associated territorial waters, from January 9, 1962, to July 30, 1980
- Johnson Atoll or a ship that called at Johnson Atoll from January 1, 1972, to September 30, 1977
For radiation exposure:
- Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll from January 1, 1977, to December 31, 1980
- Cleanup of the Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons off the coast of Palomares, Spain, from January 17, 1966, to March 31, 1967
- Response to the fire onboard an Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons near Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, from January 21, 1968, to September 25, 1968
Who is eligible for free VA Health Care?
Veterans with presumptive conditions or service in a presumptive-exposure location during the relevant time are encouraged to enroll in VA Health Care, but may be required to submit copays for their care unless one of the following applies:
1. Post-9/11 combat veterans who were discharged or released from service on or after October 1, 2013, are eligible for free VA Health Care for service-related conditions for up to 10 years after their date of separation, provided that they:
- Served in a combat theater during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or
- Served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998
2. Veterans who meet one of the above service requirements but were discharged between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013, may receive free care only if they enroll between October 1, 2022, and October 1, 2023, and have not previously enrolled in VA Health Care.
How do you file a disability claim?
Individuals who have not yet filed a disability claim for a presumptive condition can do so online, and those who had their claim denied in the past – but their condition is now included as a presumptive condition – can submit a Supplemental Claim for disability benefits.
The VA will begin processing PACT Act-related claims in January 2023, but veterans are encouraged to submit their original or supplemental claims now.
Are survivors eligible for benefits?
Surviving family members of veterans may be eligible for the following benefits under the PACT Act:
If a veteran passed away and the VA owed payments to them at the time of their death, surviving spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents may also be eligible for a one-time accrued benefits payment.