In August 2022, President Biden signed the landmark bipartisan PACT Act into law. The signing enacted the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years.

The PACT Act

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act was named in honor of a decorated combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer. The Act was first introduced in June 2021, and to many veterans’ surprise, the Act passed on August 2, 2022, and was signed into law only eight days later.

“Thanks to this transformative law, the President will announce that more than 1 million PACT Act-related claims have now been granted,” reads a May 21 White House press release. “More than 888,000 veterans and survivors across all 50 states and U.S. territories are now receiving new service-connected disability benefits.”

A Nation’s obligation

The White House clarifies that our nation has a sacred obligation to prepare and equip the troops that we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families upon returning home. Some injuries and illnesses can take years to manifest, which can make it difficult for veterans to directly connect their service and these disabilities. The release states that the PACT Act eliminated these barriers and ensures that veterans get the care and services they deserve.

The PACT Act included coverage of, but wasn’t limited to exposure to burn pits, sand, dust, oil well or sulfur fires, pesticides or herbicides, depleted uranium with embedded shrapnel, contaminated water, and at least 11 more items including firefighting foam. If exposures took place in support of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, or the Global War on Terror, as well as while service members were living or training on military installations known to be contaminated.

“President Biden has made clear that supporting our veterans is a commitment that unites all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — and it’s why he made supporting our veterans a core element of his Unity Agenda,” the release continues. “Under President Biden’s leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs has processed claims at the fastest rate in history and is delivering health care to more veterans than ever before.”

PACT Act Stats

  • Screening veterans for toxic exposures: More than 5.4 million veterans have received free screenings for toxic exposures from the VA under the PACT Act.
  • Delivering benefits to veterans and their survivors: Since enactment, the VA has delivered more than $5.7 billion in earned PACT Act-related benefits to veterans and their survivors. VA is delivering these benefits to veterans at the fastest rate in history, processing 1.57 million total claims thus far in this fiscal year.
  • Prioritizing veterans with cancer: As a part of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, the VA has prioritized claims processing for veterans with cancer – delivering nearly $637 million in PACT Act benefits to veterans with cancer.
  • Spreading the word to veterans and their survivors: Thanks to the PACT Act outreach campaign, veterans and survivors are applying for their earned benefits at record rates. Since August 2022, veterans and survivors have submitted 4.17 million total claims. This includes 1,655,810 PACT Act-specific claims applications.
  • Increasing VA’s capacity to serve veterans: Thanks to new PACT Act authorities, VA has been able to expand its workforce in order to serve veterans as quickly and effectively as possible. In total, both the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration have achieved their highest growth rates in 20 years.
  • Eliminating benefits delays for veterans: Instead of phasing in conditions over several years (as outlined in the legislation), the Biden-Harris Administration decided to make all conditions in the PACT Act presumptive for benefits as of August 10, 2022, the day the bill was signed into law.
  • Accelerating health care eligibility for veterans: As of March 2024, the VA opened up eligibility for toxic-exposed veterans to enroll in VA Health Care without first having to prove a service-connected disability and regardless of their deployment location, nearly ten years earlier than called for in the PACT Act. Thanks to new PACT Act eligibility, more than 145,000 veterans have newly enrolled in VA Health Care since August 10, 2022.

Other efforts that the current administration is working on include ending veteran homelessness, securing jobs for our veterans, removing barriers to mental health care, and supporting veterans and their caregivers.

With nearly a million (and growing) Pact Act registrations, we might be on the right track to taking care of our service members.

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Aaron Knowles has been writing news for more than 10 years, mostly working for the U.S. Military. He has traveled the world writing sports, gaming, technology and politics. Now a retired U.S. Service Member, he continues to serve the Military Community through his non-profit work.