VA Expands Benefits for Toxic-Exposed Veterans: New Scientific Review and Presumptive Conditions

US Department of Veterans Affairs

the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will conduct a scientific review to determine whether there is a relationship between three conditions — acute leukemias, chronic leukemias, and multiple myeloma outside of the head and neck — and toxic exposures for service members who deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and the entire Southwest Asia theater of operations.

This scientific review will help VA determine whether these conditions become presumptive conditions for Veterans. When a condition is considered presumptive, eligible Veterans do not need to prove that their service caused their disease to receive benefits for it; instead, VA automatically assumes service-connection for the disease and provides benefits accordingly.

This review is a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to expand benefits and services for toxic-exposed Veterans and their families. These three conditions will go through VA’s new and improved process for establishing presumptive conditions, which was codified by President Biden’s signing of the PACT Act — the largest expansion of Veteran care and benefits in generations. This process considers all available science and data — including Veteran claims data — to establish new presumptives, when appropriate, for Veterans as quickly as possible.

“We won’t rest until we understand whether there’s a connection between these deadly conditions and the service of our nation’s heroes,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “But make no mistake: Veterans shouldn’t wait for this review process to conclude to apply for the support they deserve. If you’re a Veteran living with acute leukemia, chronic leukemia, or multiple myeloma, don’t wait — apply for your VA care and benefits today.”

Although these conditions are not yet considered presumptive, it’s important to note that VA does not require a condition or location to be presumptive to grant benefits for it. When a Veteran applies for benefits (in the absence of a presumptive condition), VA considers their claim on a case-by-case basis and grants disability compensation benefits if sufficient evidence shows the Veteran has a disability related to their military service. VA encourages Veterans who live with these conditions to apply for VA health care and benefits today.

Cancers of the head and neck are already considered presumptive under the PACT Act, so this research will focus solely on acute leukemias, chronic leukemias, and multiple myeloma originating outside of the head and neck.

These conditions were chosen for scientific review based on existing scientific data and close consultations with Veterans, Veteran Service Organizations, Congress, and other key stakeholders. While these are the first conditions to be announced for scientific review since the PACT Act passed into law, VA will review many additional conditions moving forward.

In addition to codifying the new presumptive review process, the PACT Act added presumptives for more than 20 presumptive disease categories. Since Biden signed the PACT Act into law Aug. 10, VA has delivered more than $1.6 billion in PACT Act-related benefits to Veterans and their survivors. Additionally:

  • More than 700,000 Veterans have applied for PACT Act-related benefits.
  • More than 4 million Veterans have received the new toxic exposure screening.
  • More than 300,000 Veterans have enrolled in VA health care (43,000 more enrollments than the same time frame last year, including 98,000 enrollees from the PACT Act target population).

VA is soliciting public comment about this decision via the Federal Register. The public will have a 30-day period to provide comments. View the notice and submit comments here.

VA is encouraging all eligible Veterans and survivors to file a claim — or submit their intent to file a claim — for PACT Act-related benefits now. Veterans who do so on or before Aug. 9 may have their benefits, if granted, backdated to Aug. 10, 2022.

For more information about the PACT Act and a full list of presumptive conditions covered under the law, visit VA.gov/PACT.

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