PACT Act Now Law
By PVA Staff
On August 2, the Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act passed the Senate and the bill was signed into law by the President on August 10 at a White House ceremony. The PACT Act is the most comprehensive toxic exposure bill for veterans in history. Ultimately, the PACT Act will expand VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.
The PACT Act impacts both the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration. It adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions related to burn pits and broadens coverage for Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange, radiation exposure, and other toxins. Presumptive conditions are medical conditions that VA presumes to be related to military service. Some of the new presumptive conditions under the PACT Act are brain cancer, glioblastoma, gastrointestinal, lymphatic cancer, as well as several respiratory cancers. Illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, chronic rhinitis, constrictive bronchiolitis, and pulmonary fibrosis have also been added to the list. You can go to this website to determine if you have a condition that is now considered to be related to military service. Additionally, the PACT Act requires VA to provide toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care.
For veterans who have not enrolled in VA health care that separated from the military before October 1, 2013, VA is offering a special enrollment period from October 1, 2022, until October 1, 2023. To be eligible for this enrollment period you must have served in a theater of combat operations on active-duty after the Persian Gulf War or during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998, and were discharged or released between September 11, 2002, and October 1, 2012.
If you have a claim pending with VA that concerns a condition that is now considered to be a presumptive, you do not have to do any additional paperwork but you should receive a letter from VA recognizing the presumptive status of your claim. If you need help filing a VA claim or have questions about a presumptive condition, reach out to a PVA national service officer (NSO) to assist you. You can go here to find a PVA NSO in your area.
Other provisions within the PACT Act will help VA bolster its workforce and enable the department to treat newly eligible veterans. These include requiring the VA to establish standard qualifications and performance metrics for HR positions as well as developing a plan to improve hiring for those positions; expedite the hiring of recent college graduates for certain positions; enhance or create a number of special pay, incentive, bonus, award, and student loan repayment authorities department-wide; and raise pay caps on certain medical positions. Others require training for VA and civilian providers to better understand or treat veterans’ exposure concerns and authorize 31 new, major medical health clinics and research facilities in 19 states.
In the coming weeks, VA will be hiring health professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who will specialize in conducting patient assessments regarding the health effects of military exposures. Also, by January 2023, the department expects to have a fully operational call center and network of experts to help veterans concerned about environmental exposure and provide consultative services to veterans in primary care clinics.