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(c) 2022 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Burn Pit Legislation Signed into Law

President Biden signed legislation that will provide medical benefits from the Veterans Administration to service members exposed to toxic burn pits while deployed overseas in recent conflicts. The President signed the Sargent First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. It embodies some of the goals we strived to achieve in the decades-long burn pit litigation project.

-The law expands VA health care to more than 3,500,00 toxic-exposed and post-9-11 combat veterans. 

-It adds 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to the VA's presumption list.

-Also, the Act will establish 31 new VA health care facilities across 19 states.


The law doesn't do all that we had hoped to achieve in the litigation that the US Supreme Court extinguished against KBR-Halliburton. Still, achieving a few limited objectives, the law is a positive step forward. Sadly, it does not hold the ultimate wrongdoers accountable, prevent this from happening again, or provide solace to the widows, dependents, and mothers and fathers of their deceased children who served their nation as service members.



Summary


The legislation entitled Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 or the Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 [H.R.3967]  addresses health care, the presumption of service connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.


The bill establishes the Formal Advisory Committee on Toxic Exposure to assist with the various procedures in establishing or removing presumptions of service connection.


The bill modifies or establishes the presumption of service connection for specific conditions or purposes for various veteran groups. The laws included in the PACT Act are: 

-The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and The Other Toxins Act of 2022, and 

-Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2022


The US Senate passed the Act (86/11) on August 2, 2022, agreeing to a technical amendment by the House of Representatives. 


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 Armed Forces members. They 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.

The diseases covered are the following:

            "(1) Asthma diagnosed after service of the covered veteran as specified in subsection

                    (c).

            "(2) The following types of cancer:

                    "(A) Head cancer of any type.

                    "(B) Neck cancer of any type.

                    "(C) Respiratory cancer of any type.

                    "(D) Gastrointestinal cancer of any type.

                    "(E) Reproductive cancer of any type.

                    "(F) Lymphoma cancer of any type.

                    "(G) Lymphomatic cancer of any type.

                    "(H) Kidney cancer.

                    "(I) Brain cancer.

                    "(J) Melanoma.

                    "(K) Pancreatic cancer.

            "(3) Chronic bronchitis.

            "(4) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

            ``(5) Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis.

            "(6) Emphysema.

            "(7) Granulomatous disease.

            "(8) Interstitial lung disease.

            "(9) Pleuritis.

            "(10) Pulmonary fibrosis.

            "(11) Sarcoidosis.

            "(12) Chronic sinusitis.

            "(13) Chronic rhinitis.

            "(14) Glioblastoma.

            "(15) Any other disease for which the Secretary determines, under regulations prescribed under the Act, that a presumption of service connection is warranted based on a positive association with a substance, chemical, or airborne hazard identified in the list under section 1119(b)(2) of the law.


The effective date and applicability of the Act vary with the diagnosed condition. On the date of the enactment of this Act for claimants for dependency and indemnity compensation under chapter 13 of title 38, United States Code, and veterans whom the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines are--

                    (A) terminally ill;

                    (B) homeless;

                    (C) under extreme financial hardship;

                    (D) more than 85 years old; or

                    (E) capable of demonstrating other sufficient cause.


Click here to read previous articles about Burn Pits.


Statement by President Joe Biden on Senate Passage of the Bipartisan PACT Act 8/2/22 [Senate was required to vote to correct a technical error in the legislation]


Statement by President Joe Biden on Bipartisan Senate Passage of the PACT Act 6/11/22


FACT SHEET: PACT Act Delivers on President Biden's Promise to America's Veterans

Comments of Senator John Tester S3852 Congressional Record-Senate Aug. 2, 2022

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,   Burn Pit Legislation to Be Signed into Law, Workers' Compensation Blog,  August 10. 2022), 


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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.


Website: www.gelmans.com

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

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LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters