The VA and Congress made progress this week on separate plans to expand disability benefits and healthcare for veterans with problems related to toxic exposures, which includes exposure to burn pits. Here’s what they are proposing and what veterans’ advocates are saying.
9 Cancers May Be Added to Burn Pit Presumptives List
The VA is a step closer to expanding the list of health conditions presumed to be linked to toxic exposure in the military. The agency proposed this week adding nine rare respiratory cancers to the list of presumptive conditions to burn pits and other toxic sources.
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
- Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
- Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
- Large cell carcinoma of the lung
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
- Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
- Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung
Currently, veterans who believe these cancers are linked to exposure to burn pits during service must present evidence of the connection–called a medical nexus–to receive VA disability benefits. When the VA recognizes presumptive conditions, veterans do not have to prove the nexus to receive disability payments.
A statement from the VA said it has begun the process of adding the expanded list to the federal code. If it takes effect, veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations would be service connected if they developed one of the nine cancers.
The current list of presumptive conditions for toxic exposure includes three conditions that were announced in August 2021: sinitus, rhinitis, and asthma.
VA officials told the Military Times that expanding the list could potentially affect about 100 veterans.
Honoring Our PACT Act would expand benefits for toxic exposures
The U.S. House passed the Honoring our PACT Act this week with a vote of 256-174. The bill would expand presumptive service connection to more than 23 respiratory illnesses and expand VA healthcare to more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits.
House Republicans who voted against the $300 billion bill said it is too costly. The Senate is considering a similar bill. If passed the two chambers are likely to face a lengthy process to find a compromise before sending it to Biden for his signature.
The Honoring Our PACT Act, which was introduced in June 2021, is supported by multiple veterans service organizations (VSOs) including Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Here’s what some VSOs and veterans advocates had to say about the news:
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
No. Veterans must prove a medical nexus–a connection between their condition and their service—to receive VA disability benefits for cancer. However, as of March 2, 2022, the VA is pursuing a new rule that would add 9 rare cancers to the list of presumptive conditions for toxic exposures (including exposure to burn pits). Congress is also considering bills that would add up to 23 cancers to the list.
Honoring Our PACT is a bill in the U.S. House that would expand presumptive service connection to more than 23 respiratory illnesses and expand VA healthcare to more than 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits. It passed 256-174 in the U.S. House on March 3, 2022. PACT stands for “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics.”