Burn pit toxin exposure finally treated as presumptively harmful to veterans
Published November 11, 2022
The PACT Act is a new 2022 law that expands VA disability benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances, including from exposure to burn pits during the Gulf Wars and an expanded scope for Agent Orange presumptive exposure.
Here are a few of the things you’ll want to know about expanded coverage access to VA disability benefits provided by the PACT Act.
Presumptions of exposure and impact for VA disability claims
When veterans apply for VA disability benefits, they must demonstrate to the VA that they have a disabling condition and that it was service-connected. Now with the recent passage of the PACT Act, this initial process of getting disability compensation will be easier. Instead of having to present proof of burn pit toxin exposure for Gulf War veterans, to trigger your in service event, the VA will presume that you were exposed during specific times and locations of service. Additionally, the VA will presume that certain medical conditions were caused by that exposure without additional proof.
Removing this evidence barrier will help more veterans get compensation for the harm caused by exposure to burn pit toxins.
Presumption of exposure for Gulf War/Post-9/11 veterans
If your military service included time on or after September 11, 2001 in any of the following locations, the VA will presume that you were exposed to burn pits/toxins: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan, Yemen, or the airspace above any of these locations.
Similarly, if you served on or after August 2, 1990 in any of the following locations, the VA will also presume burn pit/toxin exposure: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), or the airspace above any of these locations.
Presumption that certain cancers and other medical conditions were caused by toxin exposure
The following 12 cancers are now, according to the VA, presumptively connected to Gulf War/Post 9/11 conflicts: Brain cancer, Gastrointestinal cancer of any type, Glioblastoma, Head cancer of any type, Kidney cancer, Lymphatic cancer of any type, Lymphoma of any type, Melanoma, Neck cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Reproductive cancer of any type, and Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type.
Additionally, the following other medical conditions are also presumptively service-connected: Asthma that was diagnosed after service, Chronic bronchitis, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Chronic rhinitis, Chronic sinusitis, Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, Emphysema, Granulomatous disease, Interstitial lung disease (ILD), Pleuritis, Pulmonary fibrosis, and Sarcoidosis.
What does this mean for my VA disability claim?
The expansion of presumptive exposure and consequences in the PACT Act is a good reason to take a look at your VA disability benefits claim situation. If you have already had a claim denied for one of the types of conditions or areas of service now declared to presumptively be service-connected, you may want to file a supplemental claim for the condition with proof of diagnosis.
If the VA’s claim decision for you appears to be wrong or underrated, you have the right to appeal it. It may be time to contact a law firm experienced in handling VA disability claim appeals to see if you have good arguments for appeal.
Veterans Law Group helps thousands of veterans obtain millions of dollars in VA disability benefit back pay benefits every year. They may be able to help you with your appeal also. Click here for a free evaluation of your case.