Posted in Personal Injury on November 15, 2022
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act – the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act – into law. The signing of this act could affect more than five million veterans who have been exposed to toxic fumes and substances while in service. It is the greatest expansion of benefits for these veterans in over three decades.
What Did the PACT Act Do?
The PACT Act expanded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to care for and cover veterans with injuries and illnesses from being exposed to toxic substances and burn pits. It is named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, who was an Army National Guard veteran who died after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder and stage 4 lung cancer after deploying to Kosovo and Iraq as a combat medic.
Under the PACT Act, qualifying veterans with health problems potentially connected to toxic exposure can receive high-quality health care screenings and services from the VA. The Act creates a one-year open enrollment period for pre-9/11 combat veterans and gives post-9/11 veterans 10 years post-discharge to enroll in VA health care (extended from 5 years).
The Act also created a new process that the VA will now use for evaluating and determining toxic exposure and its connection to a veteran’s military service for various chronic conditions. This can make the screening process faster and more efficient, ensuring more veterans get access to the care that they need.
The PACT Act lists 23 “presumed” conditions, or conditions that the VA will automatically assume are connected to a veteran’s time in service. The veteran does not have to prove that the service caused one of these conditions. These conditions are specifically related to burn pits and exposure to toxic substances. They include brain cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, respiratory cancer of any type, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.
The PACT Act and the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
One of the many things that the PACT Act does for veterans is make it easier for victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination crisis to seek medical care and financial benefits from the VA. The PACT Act aligns with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021, which permitted certain veterans and other individuals to recover financial compensation for harm suffered from exposure to contaminated water while at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
If you or a loved one was stationed at Camp Lejeune during these dates and was exposed to the water for at least 30 days, you may be entitled to compensation for related illnesses and health problems. Medical research teams found that the potable water used at Camp Lejeune for drinking, bathing and cooking contained over 70 toxic substances and volatile organic compounds that have been linked to a variety of cancers, diseases and illnesses.
Under the PACT Act, veterans with health problems connected to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune may find it easier to qualify for VA benefits and receive justice. Many of the presumptive conditions listed in the PACT Act align with the medical problems experienced by Camp Lejeune victims. This means these veterans no longer have to prove to the VA that their military service was the cause of their health problems.
Are You Eligible for VA Benefits Under the PACT Act?
If you or someone you love was exposed to burn pits or toxic substances while serving in the U.S. Military, including at Camp Lejeune, you may benefit from the PACT Act. You could now qualify for VA health care, disability benefits, a pension program, life insurance options and other critical benefits for an illness or cancer. Furthermore, you may not need to prove the connection between your illness and military service to qualify. For more information about the PACT Act and a potential Camp Lejeune claim, request a free consultation with an attorney at the Law Offices of Maloney & Campolo.