WASHINGTON D.C. – President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law a landmark veterans’ health benefits bill that will open health care benefits to over 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic substances during their time of service.
The bill, Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, will also consider exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards as a cost of war, which addresses the full range of issues impacting toxic-exposed veterans.
The bill also includes access to earned benefits and healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It shifts the burden of proof off of veterans by conceding exposure to burn pits and airborne hazards by creating presumptions for 23 different respiratory illnesses and cancers.
“If a veteran served in a particular theater at a particular time, they will be presumed to be exposed to toxic substances and therefore potentially eligible for healthcare and benefits,” said officials from Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal’s office.
Carbajal, a veteran himself, co-sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives earlier this year and joined President Biden for Wednesday’s signing.
“It was my privilege to join President Biden today, alongside veterans and my fellow lawmakers, to see the largest expansion of veterans’ benefits in decades signed into law,” said Carbajal.
“When our servicemembers embark on their missions to protect the United States, we make a promise that we will take care of them when they come home. But that promise has not been kept for some veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and substances in the course of their duties. We owe it to toxic-exposed veterans to provide the care and benefits they’ve earned.