WASHINGTON, DC — Veterans who believe they were exposed to certain chemicals during their service, even those who applied for help before and were rejected – are being encouraged to sign up for benefits under the PACT Act.

The “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022,” also known as the PACT Act, was signed into law Aug. 9, 2022 and expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.

Press Secretary for the US Department of Veterans Affairs  Terrence Hayes talked about the importance of the PACT Act on Panhandle Live on WEPM/WCST The Panhandle News Network.

“If you’ve come in contact with any toxic substances because of your service, whether that’s from Agent Orange or burn pits, or any other toxic items because of your service, what we’re  encouraging you to do is stop what you’re doing and give us a call at V-A or visit your local or county veterans service office to apply for benefits and seek enrollment into our health care,” he said.

“If you’re a Vietnam War veteran, if you’re a Gulf War veteran, or a post-9-11 veteran, like myself, this impacts you potentially,”  Hayes said.  “We have quite a few veterans in the Martinsburg area,” he said.  “This is critical for those veterans and survivors of those veterans.”

Hayes says the importance of the PACT act is that it simplifies the burden of proof for veterans.

“In the past, it would have been tough for veterans or survivors to prove that they had been impacted by these conditions,” he said. “Because of the PACT Act, it’s made everything simpler.”

Hayes said there are more than 250 presumed conditions related to toxic exposure that are listed on their website , VA.gov/PACT  “If you have any of those, it’s automatically assumed it’s because of your service,” he said.  “No longer is the burden of proof in the hands of the veteran or the survivor.”

For those veterans who are unsure whether they were exposed to toxins during service, Hayes said “We’re providing toxic exposure screenings to those individuals to hopefully determine if they have come in contact with toxic substances or not, and if they have, we’re able to look at further testing and maybe some diagnosis and of course a treatment plan., of course leading to those benefits.”

The PACT Act goes beyond veterans to their families as well.  “It’s our duty to ensure that not just our veterans are taken care of, but the survivors of these veterans as well,” Hayes said, who recommends those whose veteran loved one may have passed away because of any of the identified conditions, “Stop everything you’re doing, give us a call or visit your local (Veterans Administration,) so they can walk you through this process because we must take care of you as well as you have taken care of us.”

The Martinsburg VA Medical Center will hold an outreach event Thursday, July 27th for Veterans who may be entitled to additional benefits related to toxic exposure during military service. Thursday, July 27th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Post Theater at the Martinsburg VAMC, located at 510 Butler Avenue in Martinsburg.
“Veterans are encouraged to apply before August 9, 2023, which, if approved, will allow benefits to be backdated to August 10, 2022. Additionally, if Veterans are not ready to submit a full claim by that date, they can also submit an intent to file by Aug. 9th and still receive the same effective date,” according to a press release from the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.

PACT Act, according to a post on VA.gov –

  • 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 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange, 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