U.S. veterans and their families may see expanded benefits as the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) takes effect.
This is true of veterans of most wars, and none more than post-9/11 and Gulf War vets, those who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other locations across the Middle East.
Among its many provisos, the PACT Act implemented more than 20 new presumptive exposures to the list of conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
A presumptive condition to toxic exposure is a condition that, taken together with a veteran’s dates and locations of service, the VA can assume is linked to the veteran’s service record. For those who served in the Middle East after 9/11 (and many who served in the Gulf War), when burn pits were quite common as a means of disposing from everything from food to Styrofoam to unspent artillery, many veterans breathed in toxic fumes.
The toxic fumes from those burn pits have resulted in millions of veterans struggling to breathe. But, if a person’s condition isn’t listed as a presumptive condition, then they have to prove their condition is related to their military service – something that is particularly difficult with conditions such as lung disease.
The PACT Act makes it easier to apply for and access disability benefits as well as health care through the VA.
By adding more than 20 presumptive conditions to the VA’s list, the PACT Act has expanded the number of veterans who can now receive immediate benefits from their disability or condition. No longer will those veterans whose conditions and years of service align have to jump through administrative hoops to prove their condition is directly related to their service.
Those who served in a post-9/11 or Gulf War conflict in the Middle East and have symptoms of or have been diagnosed with an associated presumptive condition may qualify.
The specific locations of service for those who served after 9/11 are, as listed on the VA benefits page:
For Gulf War-era veterans, the VA’s list of presumed locations is for those serving on or after Aug. 2, 1992 in:
Both lists presume also to include service members who served in the airspace above any of these locations.
With an estimated 86 percent of post-9/11 combat veterans exposed to burn pits, millions of veterans will likely see the impact of the PACT Act in their expedited benefits or expanded access.
While VA benefits are often limited to those whose discharge was honorable or general, the VA also has proceedings for veterans to upgrade their discharge. If you or a loved one needs assistance in accessing their VA benefits, or to find out if you or your family could benefit from the PACT Act legislation, contact the team at Berry Law today.
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