On August 2, 2022, Congress passed the PACT Act and President Biden then signed it into law. This law provides veterans exposed to toxins on the battlefield easy access to medical care as well as other benefits. Experts say it’s largest healthcare and benefit expansion in the history of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The new law expands VA healthcare and benefits for Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 era veterans exposed to the following:
- Burn pits
- Agent Orange
- Toxic substances, including radiation
The PACT Act added to the existing list of health conditions the federal government “presumes” come from exposure to one of these dangers. These newest conditions include 11 respiratory-related conditions as well as several types of cancer. For example:
- Reproductive cancers
- Kidney cancer
- Brain cancers, such as glioblastoma
The new law also provides a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA healthcare. In addition, it helps the VA improve research, staff education, and treatment related to such toxic exposures.
IMPORTANT: If you’re either a veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.
What Does “Presumptive” Mean?
Your disability generally must come from your military service to qualify for a VA disability rating. This means that for most conditions, you need to prove your time in active military duty caused your condition. However, this is no longer the case for certain conditions. If your illness is on the PACT Act’s newly expanded presumptive conditions list, the VA will automatically assume your military service directly caused your condition. The VA calls these specific disabling illnesses “presumptive conditions.”
If you have one of these conditions, again, you won’t need to prove that your time in the service caused it. Instead, you only need to meet the service requirements for the VA to approve your claim for PACT Act benefits.
PACT Act Approves 20 New VA Presumptive Disabilities
The following cancers are now VA presumptive disabilities, thanks to the PACT Act:
- Brain cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
- Head cancer of any type
- Kidney cancer
- Lymphatic cancer of any type
- Lymphoma of any type
- Neck cancer of any type
- Pancreatic cancer
- Reproductive cancer of any type
- Breathing-related cancer of any type
In addition, these illnesses and breathing problems now count as VA presumptive disabilities:
- Asthma diagnosed since ending military service
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
- Granulomatous disease
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Important: If you have one of the cancers on this list, then the VA will fast-track your request for benefits.
Some PACT Act Conditions Can Get VA Benefits Faster
The VA announced in November 2022 that it will fast-track all disability claims for cancers associated with the PACT Act. In other words, the VA puts veterans with these cancers at the front of the line for faster claim reviews.
QUICK TIP: For more information how to file a claim, visit va.gov/PACT. If you have questions and wish to speak with someone about the PACT Act, call 1-800-MyVA411 free any time.
Veterans with any cancer on the PACT Act’s list of presumptive conditions will get their earned benefits faster. The PACT Act reduces how much evidence veterans need in order to prove burn pits or other toxic exposures caused their condition(s). Those VA disability claims no longer must show a direct link between each veteran’s military service and current health issue(s).
Veterans have filed nearly 125,000 PACT Act-related claims since President Biden signed it into law on August 10. Nearly 14,000 of those claims are for cancers now covered by the PACT Act.
IMPORTANT: The VA will begin processing all PACT Act-related claims on January 1, 2023. To handle all the expected new claims, the VA’s also hiring more employees at 56 regional offices and 39 other special processing centers.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Do you have questions about how the VA presumptive disability list applies to your PACT Act claim? We have experienced VA-accredited attorneys and advocates available to assist you. In fact, you can sign up for a free phone call to get confidential claim help right away. Ready to see if you may qualify for claim help at no cost to you? Then click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation right now:
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.