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Current Legislation Long Overdue

Current Legislation Long Overdue

Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 or the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 bill addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.

With input from dozens of veterans groups, legislative staffers, and others across the veteran community, the bill addresses not just the care of those exposed to burn pits during service in Iraq in Afghanistan, but of those exposed to toxins during previous conflicts and how the VA will treat such exposure in future military actions.

Among the improvements:

• Expands VA care to more than 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans exposed to toxins.

• Adds 23 conditions to VA’s presumption list for toxic exposure.

• Provides toxic exposure screenings to all veterans at VA medical appointments and boosts training and education for VA personnel on illnesses connected to toxins.

• Establishes 31 new VA facilities and invests in VA claims processing.

• Expands the list of locations with presumed exposure to Agent Orange to include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll, covering Vietnam War-era service in most instances and extending past the war’s end for some locations.

• Require a series of research projects, studies, and surveys tracking toxic exposure-related health care concerns, ranging from cancer rates to mental health issues to overall VA treatment.

 The overall cost of the measure could be roughly $278 billion over 10 years.

The bill provides eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care, including mental health services and counseling, to veterans who (1) participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system), (2) served in specified locations on specified dates, or (3) deployed in support of a specified contingency operation.

The bill establishes the Formal Advisory Committee on Toxic Exposure to assist with the various procedures in establishing or removing presumptions of service-connection.

The bill modifies or establishes the presumption of service-connection for certain conditions or purposes for various groups of veterans.

Among other requirements, the VA must:

• provide a veteran with a medical examination regarding the nexus between a disability and toxic exposure risk activity if a veteran submits a disability compensation claim for a service-connected disability with insufficient evidence,

• incorporate a clinical questionnaire to help determine potential toxic exposures as part of the initial screening conducted for veterans with a VA primary care provider, and

• establishes a registry for current or past members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances due to the environmental release of aqueous film-forming foam at a Department of Defense location.

We encourage veterans who feel this legislative change could benefit them to call and schedule a time to visit our office and potentially file for benefits.

For more information on VA & State Benefits, please contact Montgomery County Veterans Service at 

936-539-7842 or via email at [email protected].

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