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ICYMI: Sec. McDonough Highlights How Veterans in Iowa Benefit From PACT Act

September 14, 2022

Yesterday, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to discuss how the PACT Act helps veterans by providing the most significant expansion of VA health care in 30 years.

For decades, veterans have been denied care related to toxic exposure resulting from their service. President Biden believes that our nation has a sacred obligation to care for our troops when we send them into harm's way and when they return home. The PACT Act President Biden signed into law in August delivers on this obligation.

Veterans are encouraged to go to VA.gov/PACT for additional information and resources regarding their benefits and filing claims for PACT Act-related disabilities.

Read the full story below:

Des Moines Register: What veterans exposed to toxic burn pits should know about the PACT Act's new benefits
[Katie Akin, 9/14/22]

During a visit Tuesday to a Des Moines medical center, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough promoted newly passed legislation to expand health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

McDonough urged Iowa veterans who were exposed to toxic substances to file claims under the new program now.

"Let's get those claims filed," he said. "We want to get to work to get you the care and the benefits that you've earned, especially over these last 30 years of war."

What is the PACT Act?

President Joe Biden signed the "Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics" bill — also known as the PACT Act — on Aug. 10. The legislation will fund research and benefits for as many as 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during service.

The U.S. military often burned waste in large pits in Iraq and Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including plastic, rubber, chemicals, paint and medical and human waste.

In addition to immediate health issues, including coughing or difficulty breathing, thousands of veterans say the burn pits caused ongoing, severe illnesses after their deployment.

Before the bill's passage, veterans would need to prove that burn pits caused their illness before they could access benefits.

Now, 23 medical conditions — including several cancers and respiratory illnesses — will not require proof of connection to service. The bill also includes new provisions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

How can veterans file disability claims?

McDonough directed veterans to VA.gov/PACT to file a claim under the PACT Act.

The bill redefines many conditions as "presumptive" — meaning the department will automatically consider those conditions a result of military service. A full list of presumptive conditions is available at VA.gov/PACT.

Veterans who have previously been denied benefits for these new presumptive conditions may file a supplemental claim, asking the department to reconsider.

When will PACT Act benefits take effect?

Although veterans may file claims now, don't expect an immediate response. McDonough said the department will begin processing claims Jan. 1, 2023.

"Those benefits … will begin flowing in the days, the weeks and the months after that," he said.

Benefits will be paid retroactively from Aug. 10, 2022, when Biden signed the bill into law.

McDonough said the VA will provide toxic exposure screenings to every enrolled veteran beginning Oct. 1.

USA Today contributed reporting.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: Sec. McDonough Highlights How Veterans in Iowa Benefit From PACT Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/357882

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