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By Ken Cruickshank
Veterans Services Officer, Tulare County 

The PACT Act

 

Last updated 11/7/2022 at 7:47pm | View PDF



This column is the first to cover the PACT Act; I will have at least one follow-up column covering another area of the changes.

The full name of the law is "The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act." I will cover the changes that Vietnam Veterans will see under the Act in this column. The new law expands Veterans Administration (VA) health care and benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

First, an overview of what changes the PACT Act will bring:

• Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam War, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras;

• Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures;

• Adds more presumptive exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation;

• Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care; and

• Helps the VA improve research, staff education and treatment related to toxic exposures.

What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?

To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition. But for some conditions, the VA will automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. These are called “presumptive conditions.”

The VA considers a condition presumptive when it's established by law or regulation. If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption. Many disabilities were already on the list of presumptive Agent Orange, and under the PACT Act, the VA has now added monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Another significant change to come about is the addition of five new locations to the presumptive listing:

• Any U.S. or Royal Thai miliary base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976;

• Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969;

• Cambodia at Mimot, Krek, Kampong Cham Province, from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969;

• Guam or America Samoa, or in the territorial waters off Guam or America Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 30, 1980; and

• Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977.

If you believe you now qualify for benefits, please contact our office so that we may assist you in filing your claim for benefits.

Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at kcruicks@tularecounty.ca.gov

 

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