OHIO VALLEY — HR3967 SSC/Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021 was first introduce to Congress in June 2021. The House passed the measure in March, and it was then sent to the Senate, who passed the measure on June 16. The bill is awaiting Congressional approval and a signing into law by President Biden.
The PACT Act is considered the most comprehensive toxic exposure bill to benefit veterans in history and will help not only recently exposed veterans, but earlier generations of veterans exposed to agent orange and radiation. It expected to deliver “comprehensive benefits to all generations of veterans who have suffered due to toxic exposure, for the first time in our nation’s history,” according to veteran’s groups.
The legislation is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a Central Ohio veteran who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard, and passed away in 2020 from cancer as a result of toxic exposure during his military service.
According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, “Airborne hazard” refers to any sort of contaminant or potentially toxic substance that service members are exposed to in the air they breath. While on active duty, military service members may have been exposed to a variety of airborne hazards including: smoke and fumes from open burn pits, sand, dust, and particulate matter, general air pollution common in certain countries, fuel, aircraft exhaust, and other mechanical fumes, and smoke from oil well fires. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, open-air combustion of trash and other waste in burn pits was a common practice. The Department of Defense has now closed out most burn pits and is planning to close the remainder.
According to Congress.gov, the bill addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.
The bill provides eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care, including mental health services and counseling, to veterans who participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system), served in specified locations on specified dates, or deployed in support of a specified contingency operation.
It establishes the Formal Advisory Committee on Toxic Exposure to assist with the various procedures in establishing or removing presumptions of service-connection, as the bill modifies or establishes the presumption of service-connection for certain conditions or purposes for various groups of veterans.
Among other requirements, the VA must provide a veteran with a medical examination regarding the nexus between a disability and toxic exposure risk activity if a veteran submits a disability compensation claim for a service-connected disability with insufficient evidence, incorporate a clinical questionnaire to help determine potential toxic exposures as part of the initial screening conducted for veterans with a VA primary care provider, and establish a registry for current or past members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances due to the environmental release of aqueous film-forming foam at a Department of Defense location.
Information provided by sourced from www.congress.gov. and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
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