Filing a Burn Pit Benefits Claim Under the PACT Act

VA disability attorney and client

Members of the U.S. military who worked near burn pits have developed devastating illnesses from exposure to the toxins released into the air. Fortunately, the PACT Act gives veterans increased access to disability benefits if their service included exposure to burn pits or other toxic substances.

What Are Burn Pits and How Were They Used in Military Operations?

Burn pits are large areas where the military burns plastics, metals, and medical waste to eliminate bulk excess quickly. Soldiers used burn pits during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other locations. Sadly, these pits were often located close to where service members spent the majority of their time. As a result, many soldiers breathed in the smoke every day, not knowing the devastating effects it would have.

What Is the PACT Act?

The PACT Act stands for the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act. This law is a response to the growing number of health issues among veterans exposed to burn pits and other environmental hazards during their military service. The bill was signed into law on August 10, 2022.

The PACT Act expands VA health care benefits to those exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances by:

  • Allowing more veterans — including those from the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and post-9/11 — eligible for VA benefits if they were exposed to harmful substances
  • Recognizing over 20 new presumptive conditions linked to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances
  • Identifying more locations where exposure to Agent Orange and radiation is presumed
  • Requiring the VA to perform a toxic exposure screening for every veteran in their health care system
  • Committing to improve the VA’s research, staff training, and treatment methods for issues related to toxic exposure

These changes mark a significant expansion of VA disability benefits for many veterans and their families, including eligibility for retroactive benefits in some cases. The increased number of illnesses now assumed to be linked to toxic exposure is a massive change in itself, making it easier for veterans to establish a presumptive service connection when they file a claim.

What Benefits Are Available Under the PACT Act?

The PACT Act offers several key benefits to veterans, their families, and survivors, such as:

  • Disability compensation: Veterans who have illnesses linked to toxic exposures, such as burn pits or Agent Orange, can receive disability compensation. Military family members may also qualify for monthly VA dependency payments, depending on their case.
  • Health care benefits: The PACT Act expands and extends eligibility for VA health care. Veterans from the Vietnam War, Gulf War era, and post-9/11 period who were exposed to toxic substances can access comprehensive health care services. This ensures they receive treatment for conditions related to their exposure without additional barriers.
  • Survivor benefits: The act also supports surviving family members of veterans who passed away due to their exposure to burn pits. Survivor benefits include monthly compensation, access to health care, and education benefits.

Eligibility for PACT Act Benefits

Typically, proving a VA disability claim is a complicated process that involves providing evidence of how your disability is connected to your military service.

When a disability is presumed to be related to military service, veterans don’t need to prove that connection. Under the PACT Act, all that matters is whether they served in an area where toxic environmental hazards were present. The list of presumed health conditions related to burn pits and other environmental hazards includes:

  • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
  • Cancer (e.g., brain cancer, kidney cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, reproductive cancer, and respiratory cancer)
  • 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

The VA has also created a list of locations where veterans have a presumption of exposure to these toxic environmental hazards, including:

*On or after Sept. 11, 2001*

  • Afghanistan
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen
  • The airspace above any of these locations

*On or after Aug. 2, 1990*

  • Arabian Sea
  • Bahrain
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Gulf of Oman
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Persian Gulf
  • Red Sea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • The airspace above any of these locations

Contact a Michigan VA Benefits Lawyer Now

If you or a loved one feel they qualify for benefits under the PACT Act, please contact our offices today for more information.