One provision of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) extends the timeframe combat veterans have after separating from service to apply for benefits.
This timeframe extension, as well as the addition of new conditions the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accepts as being presumably caused by toxic exposures during your time of service, will give more veterans the opportunity to qualify for free health care.
Typically, veterans can receive free care for service-connected disabilities within five years of their separation from service (presuming they were discharged under favorable circumstances). The PACT Act has extended that period to 10 years, meaning servicemembers who have been separated from service for a decade or less can still qualify for care.
In light of the expanded list of presumptive conditions for toxic exposure, this means more veterans suffering from lung conditions caused by toxic burn pits that were common in the post-9/11 era can now seek free health care from the VA. Moving forward, the VA will presume these conditions are linked to service instead of requiring veterans to prove their diseases are linked to their service.
The new presumptive conditions list for the VA includes more than 20 additional diseases linked to burn pit exposure, such as head, neck, respiratory or gastrointestinal cancers, and several lung diseases like interstitial lung disease, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.
For a full list of the additional presumptive conditions, visit the VA’s Air Borne Hazards and Burn Pit Exposures page. An estimated 3.5 million veterans are living in the U.S. who were exposed to burn pits during their service.
For veterans who are seeking treatment for disabilities connected to their service records, treatment through the VA may be free if:
Veterans who seek treatment for non-service-connected injuries may still receive care at the VA within 10 years of their separation from service, but that care may require the veteran to pay a copay.
Your care at the VA, both in terms of cost and priority for treatment, is based on what priority group the VA places you in. Your priority group is determined by factors such as your rank, any honors you received, how long you’ve been separated from service, and the severity of any disabilities you have that were caused by your service. Depending on what priority group you are in, even non-service-connected injuries may be fully covered by the VA.
An FAQ page on the VA website recommends applying for VA benefits no matter your separation date.
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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