President Biden recently delivered on his promise to strengthen health care and benefits for America’s veterans and their survivors by signing the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Many are stating that this is the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years. The PACT Act, as it’s commonly known, is named after Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson who passed away in 2020 from conditions related to toxic exposure during his service in the military.
The bill will address toxic exposures that have impacted veterans, as well as their families and caregivers, and provide them with the health care and benefits they have earned and deserve. This law will help with providing generations of Veterans — and their survivors — with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.
The PACT Act will bring these changes:
- 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 more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
- Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
- Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
- Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
To qualify, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.
The Department of Defense has estimated nearly 3.5 million troops from recent wars may have suffered enough exposure to the smoke to cause health problems. Only a small portion of that group has signed up for VA’s official burn pit registry, designed to help track health issues in that population.
In his statement on the PACT Act passage, McDonough encouraged eligible veterans to apply for benefits as soon as possible, rather than waiting on the legislation’s official start date. Depending on the case, veterans may eventually be eligible for retroactive pay if they file earlier.
Veterans can visit the department’s online page regarding PACT information or call 1-800-MyVA411 (800-698-2411).