Veterans exposed to toxic substances in service will have more access to cancer care and other medical assistance thanks to the recently signed Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The PACT Act passed with bipartisan effort by Congress in August 2022 and later signed into law.
The legislation’s key features include:
- Extending eligibility for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
- Adding more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
- Adding more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
- Providing exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care
- Improving research, staff education, and treatment for toxic exposure
In particular, the legislation includes removing the need for certain veterans to prove a service connection if they are diagnosed with one of 23 specified conditions, including several forms of cancer, which improves their ability to obtain prompt treatment. The PACT Act also further supports President Biden’s Unity Agenda and Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
“For the millions of veterans who may have been exposed to harmful toxins, this bill means quicker access to healthcare services and other benefits,” Biden said. “This could be the difference between life and death for many suffering from toxic-related illnesses. For the spouse or child of a servicemember who died from toxic exposure, struggling to put their lives back together, this bill will be a lifeline. It means a monthly stipend for a surviving spouse and kids and access to tuition benefits to help cover the cost of college. It means access to life insurance, home loan assistance, and help with health care. It matters.”
Exposure to toxic substances can elevate health risks and lead to the development of diseases such as cancer. Healthcare professionals must advocate for health policies that ensure the best and timely care for all, particularly for vulnerable populations.