Vietnam veterans are among those affected by the passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) in August.
The bipartisan PACT Act sought to standardize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approach to determining what care it will provide for veterans whose disabilities are assumed to have been caused by their service.
For U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War, this particularly affects how the VA will treat certain conditions connected to Agent Orange.
The VA primarily treats combat veterans for conditions connected to their service. Sometimes it’s easy to show how a disability stemmed from service, such as injuries arising from an attack or specific injuring incident. However, disabilities arising from longer-term chemical exposures may be more difficult to prove. To streamline care, the VA maintains a list of conditions that are so clearly correlated among veterans with certain dates and locations of service that those diseases are presumed to have been caused by some toxic exposure in the course of service.
This list makes it easier to get care at the VA. Veterans whose dates and locations of service line up with their presumptive conditions are entitled to health services automatically instead of needing to jump through administrative hoops to prove their disability is connected to their service.
The PACT Act has expanded care for Vietnam veterans by adding two new presumptive conditions for veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange.
Prior to the PACT Act, Vietnam veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam or served in the waters around Vietnam and Cambodia between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, had an already lengthy list of presumed conditions arising from toxic exposure to Agent Orange. The list included:
By expanding the list of presumptive conditions for Agent Orange toxic exposure, the PACT Act makes it less cumbersome for Vietnam veterans to receive care through the VA.
Veterans with hypertension and MGUS won’t have to search for doctors and scientists to testify that Agent Orange exposure from five decades ago are causing their health problems now; the VA will already know. Instead of filing paperwork to prove their disability is connected to service, affected veterans will be able to walk in, knowing the benefits they earned with their service are there for them.
The PACT Act will also expand the number of VA facilities across the country and will train staff to screen current VA patients for potential toxic exposure and possible related conditions. This means Vietnam veterans who already receive care at the VA should be made aware that their existing disabilities may not be the only health conditions covered by their benefits.
Ultimately, the PACT Act extends benefits to millions of veterans and their family members, giving them quicker access to the care they earned through sacrifice to their country. 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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