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What is the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022?

Posted by Berry Law on June 27, 2022 in Toxic Exposure

The PACT Act, or the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 is a bill that directly addresses the impact on veterans and others who were exposed to environmental toxins, burn pits, radiation, and Agent Orange due to their time in service. 

Named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, an Ohio National Guard service member who died in 2020 due to exposure to toxic chemicals, this bill is a bipartisan effort led by U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Jerry Moran to expand coverage, treatments, and resources to sick veterans and others who were impacted by toxins due to service in the U.S. military. The House of Representatives voted 256 to 174 to pass this bill in March 2022, and the Senate passed it as well with a vote of 84 to 14.

What Does the PACT Act Do for Veterans? 

The PACT Act does a number of specific things that will allow greater care to veterans and others who have been impacted by exposure to harmful toxins, while also improving the VA’s processes and ability to determine presumptive conditions due to harmful exposure. 

Broken up into 9 sections, the bill first focuses on the expansion of health care for specific categories of veterans who were exposed to toxins. This includes hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care.

Second, it will work to improve the ability of the VA to establish presumptions of service connection based on toxic exposures. Third, it will work to improve the establishment of a service connection process for toxic-exposed veterans. This will add some 23 burn pit and toxic exposure conditions to the list of the VA’s service presumptions. 

Fourth, additional presumptions of service connection for veterans who participated in cleanup and nuclear response teams, which exposed them to harmful radiations, as well as those exposed to Agent Orange in specific locations, to include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll. Fifth, the bill will work to improve federal research on toxic exposure and the harmful impact it can have. 

Sixth, improvements in training and resource allocations to the VA to assist veterans exposed to toxins will be implemented. Seventh, the bill will work to enhance the VA claims process by improving capacity and automation. 

Eighth, the VA will conduct epidemiological studies, biennial briefings on individual longitudinal exposure records, and address errors in exposure records made by the military and veterans. This section also directly addresses the issue of Camp Lejeune contamination and provides a means of seeking compensation due to that exposure. Finally, the bill addresses how it will work to improve the workforce of the VA by implementing a new hiring plan, and improvements in internal practices.

This monumental bill is estimated to cost nearly $300 billion over the next decade. As stated by President Joe Biden, “this legislation makes good on our sacred obligation to care for veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.” This bill will hopefully be a welcomed opportunity for veterans to seek the benefits that to this point have been out of reach.