The PACT Act: What it Means for Veterans with Toxic Exposure

If you are a veteran who served in a location where you may have been exposed to water contamination, burn pits, Agent Orange, or other harmful toxins, you may have heard of the PACT Act. But what is it, and how does it affect your health care and benefits?

The PACT Act stands for “The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act”. This is a recent law that was signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022, after receiving bipartisan support from Congress. It is named after SFC Heath Robinson, a decorated combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer that was very likely caused by his exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The PACT Act is the most significant expansion of Veteran’s Association (VA) health care and benefits for veterans with toxic exposures in more than 30 years. It aims to provide generations of veterans and military employees—and their surviving families—with the care and benefits they have earned and deserve.

What are the main features of the PACT Act?

The PACT Act brings several changes that will benefit veterans of all ages and types of exposure. Here are some of the key features:

  • The Act expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 conflicts. This means that if you served in one of these conflicts or on a military base and were exposed to certain substances, you can enroll in VA health care without having to prove your exposure or pay copayments for your care.
  • It adds more than 20 “presumptive” conditions for water contamination, burn pits, Agent Orange, and many other toxic exposures. “Presumptive” means if you have one of these conditions, you do not need to prove that your service caused it. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption, making it much easier for you to get disability compensation and other benefits from VA, or file a civil claim through litigating.
  • More “presumptive”-exposure locations for water contamination, Agent Orange and radiation have been added. This means that if you served in one of these locations, you are automatically considered exposed to these substances. Eligibility has now been expanded, benefiting veterans who served in places like Thailand, Guam, Johnston Island, Spain, and others.
  • The VA now is required to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care. This helps identify any health issues related to your service and connect you with the appropriate care and benefits. A screening can also be requested if you are not enrolled in VA health care.
  • It helps VA improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures. This will help VA better understand the health effects of these substances and provide more effective and personalized care for veterans.

How can I apply for PACT Act-related benefits?

If you are a veteran, military employee, or a surviving family member who may be eligible for PACT Act-related benefits, you can file a claim now. A disability claim can be made online or by mail, phone, or in person, or you can apply for VA health care online or by phone.

If you were exposed to toxic contaminants at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, the PACT act allows the VFW-endorsed Herd Law Firm to help you claim restitution as well.

To learn more about the PACT Act and your VA benefits, you can visit the VA website or call 800-698-2411. You can also find helpful resources from the Veterans Health Administration’s Public Health website.

The PACT Act is a historic achievement that reflects our nation’s gratitude and commitment to our veterans. By passing this law, America has strengthened health care and benefits for veterans and their families, military employees, even children in utero. And at the Herd Law Firm, PLLC, we support every man, woman, and child exposed to contaminants at Camp Lejeune, and believe you deserve quality, attentive legal representation. We are proud to be able to aid our veterans and their families in seeking restitution for their injuries.


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