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Daily News Blog

10
Nov

Law Recognizing Veterans’ Diseases from Toxic Exposure One Year Old; Thank You Veterans for Your Service

(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2023) In a press conference this week just prior to Veteran’s Day, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough affirmed the federal government’s medical support for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service in the military under a law passed last year entitled The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or PACT Act. The law, passed in August 2022, identifies specific diseases as “presumptive conditions” caused during specified military service. The passage of the law is a tribute to veterans and the public uproar just over one  year ago that demanded that the U.S. Congress recognize and treat diseases caused by toxic chemical exposure during military service.

The passage of the PACT Act in 2022 was controversial and first blocked by Republicans in the Senate, but public outrage and high profile support from comedian and activist Jon Stewart ultimately led to final passage. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “For too long, our nation’s veterans have faced an absurd indignity: They enlisted to serve our country, went abroad in good health, and came back home only to get sick from toxic exposure endured while in the line of duty.”

Those with presumptive conditions do not need to prove that their service caused the listed condition. Veterans only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

The law recognizes the toxic exposure from smoke and fumes generated from open burn pits. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, open-air combustion of chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste in burn pits was a common practice, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration (VA). The Department of Defense says it has now closed out most burn pits and is planning to close the remainder. President Biden has attributed his son’s death from brain cancer in 2015 to his exposure to burn pits in Iraq.

According to the Veterans Administration, 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions based on the PACT Act. This change expands benefits for Gulf War era and post-9/11 Veterans and includes the following cancers as “presumptive”: Brain cancer, Gastrointestinal cancer of any type, Glioblastoma, Head cancer of any type, Kidney cancer, Lymphoma of any type, Melanoma, Neck cancer of any type, Pancreatic cancer, Reproductive cancer of any type, and Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type. Additionally, these illnesses are now presumptive: Asthma that was diagnosed after service, Chronic bronchitis, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Chronic rhinitis, Chronic sinusitis, Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, Emphysema, ranulomatous disease, Interstitial lung disease (ILD), Pleuritis, Pulmonary fibrosis, and Sarcoidosis. The VA identifies specific areas of military service with time periods. The act includes other presumptive conditions, including, for example, exposure to Agent Orange (the mixture of herbicide 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T), used as a defoliant in the Vietnam War.

According to the VA, the PACT Act: 

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras. 
  • Adds 20 more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic exposures. 
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation. 
  • Requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care. 

Disability claims can be filed HERE.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

For more PACT and Toxic Exposure Information for Veterans, see: Veterans of Foreign War.

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  • Archives

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