Senate Urged to Pass Honoring Our Pact Act: Toxic-Exposed Veterans Deserve Health Care and Benefits

Toxic exposure has long been a hot topic among service members and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  VA continues to work on expanding the list of presumptive conditions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.   Most recently, particulate matter exposure amongst Gulf War veterans (so-called “burn pit exposure”) has been under the microscope, with VA implementing presumptive service connection for asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis and nine rare respiratory conditions affecting those who have served in the Gulf War.

The fight to more quickly open access to earned benefits and healthcare for toxic-exposed veterans overcame another hurdle when the House of Representatives passed the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 (otherwise known as the Honoring our PACT Act).  The Act is meant to assist Post-9/11 veterans, Persian Gulf War veterans, K2 veterans, Atomic veterans, and Vietnam veterans (including veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos).   Now it is up to the Senate to consider the legislation which, if passed, will provide a permanent presumptive framework to address toxic exposure by way of the following measures:

  • Provide Priority Group 6 health care for over 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans
  • Provide extension of combat eligibility for health care from 5 to 10 years with a one-year open enrollment period for those veterans who missed their window
  • Streamline VA’s review process for establishing toxic exposure presumptions
  • Concede exposure to airborne hazards/burn pits based on locations and dates of service
  • Require medical exams and opinions for certain veterans with toxic exposure disability claims
  • Add hypertension and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance to the list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions
  • Establish a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to burn pits/airborne hazards exposure
  • Create a presumption of exposure to radiation for veterans who participated in cleanup activities in Palomares, Spain, and Enewetak Atoll
  • Allow for a new tort claim for veterans and families exposed to toxic water at Camp LeJeune
  • Expand Agent Orange exposure to include veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos
  • Improve data collection between VA and the Department of Defense
  • Commission studies related to incidents of cancer among veterans, health trends of Post-9/11 veterans, and feasibility of providing healthcare to dependents of veterans
  • Require VA to provide standardized training to improve toxic exposure disability claims adjudications
  • Require VA to conduct outreach and provide resources to toxic-exposed veterans

Avard Law Offices is available to assist veterans with service-connected disability claims.


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