Biden: Still time for vets to apply for benefits from exposure to toxic materials

President Joe Biden recently reminded veterans that they can still apply for benefits under the PACT Act — a law signed in 2022 to increase benefits and services for veterans exposed to toxic materials while they served.

Speaking in New Hampshire on May 21, Biden said the Department of Veterans Affairs recently approved the 1 millionth claim under this program for veterans who, since their service, have developed severe or fatal conditions ranging from asthma and other respiratory illnesses to various cancers.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act was enacted into law after a protracted debate in Washington, D.C., about whether veterans were eligible for benefits, given that many of their medical conditions manifested many years after their service.

One of the catalysts for getting this legislation passed was Biden’s personal intervention — his son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer after serving in the Gulf War. Biden blamed his son’s exposure to the notorious “burn pits” common in Iraq and Afghanistan for the cancer.

The burn pits were a common method for the military to dispose of waste generated by U.S. troops. The pits burned materials including medical wastes, plastics and chemicals.

According to the VA, the PACT Act:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras;
  • Adds 20 more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic exposures;
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation;
  • Requires the VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care;
  • Helps the VA improve research, staff education and treatment related to toxic exposures.

Information for veterans looking to file claims for PACT Act-related benefits can be found here or by calling 800-698-2411.