With the passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or the PACT Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs has added more than 20 new presumptive conditions for toxic exposure for veterans and, in some cases, their family members.
For many veterans, this expanded list will make it far easier for them to obtain the benefits they earned in their years of service without lengthy disputes over what toxins they may have been exposed to or other possible causes of certain conditions.
The VA keeps a list of diseases or symptoms that the administration automatically assumes were caused by a toxic exposure during a veteran’s time of service, called “presumptive conditions.”
During the course of service, many veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals whose full effects aren’t known for years or decades. While some diseases, such as lung disease, may be caused by a variety of factors from smoking to long-term occupational hazards years after someone’s service, others are more easily connected to military services. So, the VA typically requires veterans to prove that the condition they’re seeking treatment for is definitively connected to their service before the administration will cover the cost of care.
However, if a veteran has one of the diseases or disabilities listed as a presumptive condition for toxic exposure, then it is much easier for them to access care. In that case, if the veteran’s dates of service and locations of service align with their disease, they are “presumed” to have been exposed and don’t need to provide further proof to receive care.
The PACT Act adds new criteria under which a veteran’s conditions can be presumed to have been caused by toxic exposures during their service.
Among the additions to presumptive condition criteria:
The expanded list ultimately increases the number of service dates, locations, and conditions that qualify for a presumptive condition, meaning veterans of the Vietnam War era, Gulf War veterans, and veterans who served post-9/11 can get easier access to the VA benefits they earned.
By presuming a veteran’s condition was caused by toxic exposure during service, the VA merely requires validation for the dates and locations of service. This removes many barriers of entry for veterans whose dedication to our country resulted in sometimes lifelong chronic illness and disability.
Instead of being trapped in a limbo of paperwork that never seems to end, far more veterans will see the care our country promised them.
The PACT Act, including some of the new presumptive conditions for toxic exposure, won’t fully take effect for the next few years, but it’s a step toward expanding benefits for more than 5 million veterans. Survivors of veterans may also be entitled to recompense for presumptive conditions as a result of the new law.
To find out if your family could benefit from the PACT Act legislation, contact the team at Berry Law today.
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