Honoring Our PACT Act: 2022 Updates
The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 was signed into law in August 2022. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, previously discussed on our website [link here] was contained within the law, and otherwise the Honoring Our PACT Act addresses veterans’ exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune and in other places across the world.
The Act is named for SFC Heath Robinson, an Ohio Army National Guard member who served in the Middle East after 9/11. During his service, SFC Robinson was exposed to toxic substances at “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were commonly used on bases to dispose of trash and other waste in open-air pits dug into the ground. The Honoring Our PACT Act provides enhanced benefits for veteran victims of toxic chemical exposure during any service period, including at burn pits and at Camp Lejeune.
What Benefits Does the Act provide to Servicemembers and Families?
The Act’s scope is very broad, and primarily addresses the ways in which the Department of Veterans Affairs provided benefits to affected servicemembers, generally expanding VA health care access and benefits.
Specifically, according to the VA, the Act:
- Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic chemical exposures during the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post 9/11 time periods
- Adds more than 20 new “presumptive conditions” for burn pits and other toxic exposures
- Adds more presumptive exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation exposure
- Requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care
- Provides funding to the VA for research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposure
Specifically, the Act’s biggest benefit is that it reduces or eliminates the requirement for a veteran to prove specific causation between their service, the toxic exposure, and the resulting chronic condition. That means that if a veteran served during a designated time period and later has a condition listed by the VA, they are eligible for benefits without having to prove that the exposure caused their condition. The VA will then provide disability compensation and coverage for health care associated with the veteran’s condition.
Who is Eligible for Coverage Under the Honoring Our PACT Act?
The Honoring Our PACT Act applies to veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, the Gulf War era, and the post-9/11 era. Generally, the Vietnam era coverage provides benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and radiation, and the Gulf War and post-9/11 era coverage provides benefits for exposure to burn pits. The list of presumptive conditions for Vietnam era veterans has been expanded to include high blood pressure and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance.
But because the VA has recognized Agent Orange exposure for many years, the Honoring Our PACT Act’s biggest benefits expansion applies to Gulf War and post-9/11 era veterans who may have been exposed to burn pits during their service.
Burn pits are open air pits, dug into the ground, that are used to burn trash and waste on military bases instead of using a controlled incinerator in a closed-air environment. The VA has noted that when chemicals, paint, human waste, metal cans, munitions, petroleum, plastics, styrofoam, rubber, and wood products are burned in open-air pits versus in controlled incinerators, harmful toxins can be released into the air.
Among the list of presumptive conditions for burn pit exposure are many different types of cancer, and chronic conditions such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and COPD. The full list of presumptive conditions for burn pit victims can be found on the VA’s website.
If you or a family member has been exposed to toxic chemicals during military service, you may be eligible for expanded benefits under the Honoring Our PACT Act. Our team is ready to assist veterans and their families in obtaining these benefits – contact us today for more information.