PACT Act 101—What is the PACT Act?

15 March 2024

Are you new to the PACT Act or wondering how it can benefit your health or the health of a loved one? Check out this FAQ below. 

What Is the PACT Act?

The PACT Act is the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The Act was signed into effect by President Biden on August 8, 2022, and aims to significantly extend healthcare benefits (VA benefits) to members of the military who were exposed to toxins during their time of service by adding over 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures.  It also offers monetary benefits to spouses and children of exposed veterans. 

The PACT Act has also expanded the list of locations and medical conditions related to Agent Orange, an herbicide used during the Vietnam War.  It also now requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care. 

Why is this Significant? 

Following 9/11, more than 3.5 million military service members were exposed to hazardous toxins from burn pits that impact respiratory health. These health impacts are largely undiagnosed due to underreporting, outdated VA standards, and lack of effective prevention and treatment options recognized in the VA and DoD. Such exposures can present as relatively mild conditions like asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis but are also associated with more serious, chronic ailments including nine rare forms of respiratory cancer. 

What Burn Pit and Toxic Exposure Conditions are Now “Presumptive?”

Adding 20+ presumptive conditions to the list allows veterans to receive medical care without the burden of proof. In other words, for certain medical conditions, it is now presumed that the cause was the location of their service. 

These cancers are now presumptive (and you can presumptive conditions related to burn pit exposure here)[1] 

  • Brain cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
  • Glioblastoma
  • Head cancer of any type
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphoma of any type
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Reproductive cancer of any type
  • Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type

These illnesses are now presumptive:

  • 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
  • Sarcoidosis

How Do I Know If I Or a Loved One Had Exposure to Burn Pits or Toxins?

The VA offers a complete list of timeframes and locations. For example, any veteran who served after September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan is presumed to have burn pit or toxin exposure. A complete list can be found here.  The VA also offers additional information on free VA healthcare eligibility. Those who meet the requirements can receive free VA health care for any condition related to their service for up to 10 years from the date of their most recent discharge or separation. 

What About Agent Orange Conditions?

The VA has also updated the list of presumptive conditions and potential locations of service related to Agent Orange exposure. Additional information is available here. 

What If I Am a Surviving Family Member of Someone Who Passed from a Presumptive Condition?

You may qualify for a monthly VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC) payment if you’re the surviving spouse, dependent child, or parent of a Veteran who died from a service-connected disability. Additionally, as the list of conditions has now expanded, you may qualify for a one-time accrued benefits payment if you’re the dependent family member of a Veteran who was owed unpaid benefits at the time of their death. 

What Work is Left to Be Done?

While the PACT Act is a positive development in offering more benefits to our veterans, the question remains of how the VA can support complex tests and screenings to better diagnose and treat patients. This is where new non-invasive screening tools can come into play. 

Dr. Andreas Fouras, a scientist and founder of 4DMedical, met with both Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Rosie Torres, a nationally-known veterans advocate who was instrumental in the passage of the bipartisan act. During that time he shared with them, “For the PACT Act to reach its full potential, the VA must scale up the evaluation and diagnosis process, without sending every veteran for an invasive biopsy, which will take a long time and pose additional health risks. We look forward to working with Congress on new and emerging technologies that can help this process.”  4DMedical’s XV LVAS technology, which received FDA clearance in May 2020, can help physicians detect areas of high and low ventilation in all parts of the lung and in all phases of the breath with accuracy without an invasive biopsy. 

Want to learn more about how 4DMedical can help detect lung disease without risky and costly biopsies? Check out our next blog post here. 

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