The PACT Act 2022 for Veterans: Fact Sheet
As long as the U.S. military has existed, veterans have struggled with health issues related to their service. A recent survey by the Wounded Warrior Project finds that among post-9/11 veterans, 94% experienced severe physical injuries, 91% experienced severe mental health issues, and over a third of those injured require daily assistance. While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the nation’s largest hospital system, at times it has struggled to provide adequate care for our veterans.
The PACT Act 2022
However, new legislation will provide U.S. veterans with care and services for previously uncovered medical issues. On August 2, 2022, Congress passed The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which expands medical benefits for toxic-exposed veterans, their families, survivors, and caregivers.
For many, the words “military chemical exposure” conjures iconic movie images from Apocalypse Now (1979). While the PACT Act certainly covers veterans injured in Vietnam, it expands VA coverage beyond specific service periods to provide care for more than 5 million veterans of every generation. In 2021, as many as 240,000 surviving WWII veterans were living in the U.S. Along with later veterans of Korea and other Cold-War-era conflicts, the Gulf War, the Yugoslav Wars, and the Post-9/11 War on Terror (among many others), all those injured by toxic exposure during service to their country can finally receive medical coverage.
But why does the PACT Act of 2022 matter for veterans? This blog post will explain some of the reasons it was drafted and detail who qualifies for coverage under the new law.
Latent Issues Cause Serious Health Problems for Veterans
Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq wars were exposed to many toxic chemicals, including mustard gas, Agent Orange, radiation, and noxious fumes from burning plastics and other hazardous materials. For many veterans, contamination by these toxins has caused lingering health problems, exacerbated either because they were simply overlooked or they were not tracked via toxic exposure screenings.
The burn pits on U.S. military bases—used to dispose of waste materials—gained notoriety during the Iraq War, although they had been in use for many years prior. Used to burn items like rubber, plastic, medical waste, and chemical mixtures (or outdated chemical weapons), some extremely large pits in Iraq and Afghanistan covered up to 10 acres. The waste materials burned openly for extended periods, enveloping all personnel on base in poisonous fumes. At the time, military leaders focused on tactical matters, more concerned with feeding active troops than addressing unknown toxic contaminants.
Unaware of the extent of damages from exposure to toxic fumes and particulates—including serious respiratory illnesses and rare forms of cancer—thousands of servicemen and women risked their lives by simply showing up to work. To receive treatment or obtain disability coverage from the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VA), patients are often required to connect health conditions to their military service. For many veterans, the protracted length of time between toxic exposure and the date of their initial symptoms makes it difficult to link their service to causality for a specific condition. For many toxic-exposed veterans, the VA offered limited help—until now.
The PACT Act: Expanded Coverage for Veterans
Thankfully, many connections between exposure to such chemicals and hazardous substances have now been clearly identified. The PACT Act 2022 gives veterans the chance to access previously uncovered medical services. Veterans can now file claims for these conditions:
- Brain cancer
- Any respiratory cancer
- Any gastrointestinal cancer
- Any head cancer
- Any lymphoma
- Any lymphatic cancer
- Any reproductive cancer
- Neck cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Asthma (even if diagnosed after service)
- Chronic rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Constrictive bronchiolitis
- Obliterative bronchiolitis
Furthermore, veterans will now receive an initial toxic exposure screening, with follow-up screenings every five years afterward, to identify and treat conditions stemming from chemical exposure. This includes veterans who are not currently enrolled.
Veterans who have previously had their toxic-exposure claims denied should submit supplemental claims.
The PACT Act 2022 is a huge win for our service members, particularly for those with medical conditions linked to toxic exposure. However, there is more room for the VA to improve in terms of providing coverage for veterans and upgrading their quality of care.
Service members who do not receive expanded coverage benefits, or who become sick or injured after serving and struggle to link an illness or injury to their service may struggle to pay for medical care. These service members may benefit from the type of medical coverage that differs from traditional methods if they are unable to pay for medical services.
More Details on the PACT Act
If you have suffered from respiratory difficulties or any other physical symptoms after toxic exposure during military service, contact the Veterans Health Administration for more information about the PACT Act and how it affects your benefits. If you’re not enrolled in VA healthcare, or if you’re a family member or survivor of a veteran with similar health problems, you can still contact the VA or any local office of other veterans’ organizations to find out how the PACT Act can benefit you:
- Visit www.va.gov, or call the MyVA411 main information phone line toll-free, 800.698.2411.
- The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), www.vfw.org/, created the National Veterans Service specifically to assist veterans with filing medical claims, free of charge. You can also call their national headquarters in Kansas City, MO, at 816.756.3390.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV), www.dav.org/, or 877-I-AM-A-VET (877.426.2838)
- The Wounded Warrior Project: www.woundedwarriorproject.org/, or 888.997.2586
If you are an employer, broker, or third-party administrator who works with 6 Degrees Health and wants to know how the PACT Act may affect your plan members, you can speak to a representative today to help you figure out the details.
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