The PACT Act of 2022

 

From an Anonymous RVSR at VA;

 

PACT Act became law on 8/10/22. 
  
The PACT Act will bring these changes:
·         Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 era
·         Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
·         Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
·         Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
·         Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
 
Note website: https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-a ... -benefits/

GW, AO , radiation.

GW and post 9/11
20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions based on the PACT Act. This change expands benefits for Gulf War era and post-9/11 Veterans.

These cancers are now presumptive:
·         Brain cancer
·         Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
·         Glioblastoma
·         Head cancer of any type
·         Kidney cancer
·         Lymphatic cancer of any type
·         Lymphoma of any type
·         Melanoma
·         Neck cancer
·         Pancreatic cancer
·         Reproductive cancer of any type
·         Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type
These illnesses are now presumptive:
·         Asthma that was diagnosed after service
·         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
 

Presumptive exposure to burn pits;


On or after September 11, 2001, in any of these locations:
·         Afghanistan
·         Djibouti
·         Egypt
·         Jordan
·         Lebanon
·         Syria
·         Uzbekistan
·         Yemen
·         The airspace above any of these locations
On or after August 2, 1990, in any of these locations:
·         Bahrain
·         Iraq
·         Kuwait
·         Oman
·         Qatar
·         Saudi Arabia
·         Somalia
·         The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
·         The airspace above any of these locations
 
Agent Orange Exposure;
 
2 new conditions added to the list of presumptive conditions:
·         High blood pressure (also called hypertension)
·         Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
 
5 new locations to the list of presumptive locations:
·         Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962,   through June 30, 1976 
·         Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969
·         Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
·         Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off of Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 30, 1980
·         Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977
 
Radiation Exposure;
3 new response efforts to the list of presumptive locations:
·         Cleanup of Enewetak Atoll, from January 1, 1977, through December 31, 1980
·         Cleanup of the Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons off the coast of Palomares, Spain, from January 17, 1966, through March 31, 1967
·         Response to the fire onboard an Air Force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons near Thule Air Force Base in Greenland from January 21, 1968, to September 25, 1968
 
 Claim processing notice to the field; as of August 10, 2022
 
Districts,
 
Please disseminate the guidance below to all ROs, including DROCs. OAR will release Higher Level Review guidance to the DROCs separately.
 
On August 10, 2022, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 was signed into law by President Biden.  VBA is already seeing an influx of claims associated with the Public Law.  Interim guidance regarding specifics of the Public Law and how it affects VBA claims processing, along with how to handle these claims in the Regional Offices, will be disseminated soon.  In the interim and effective immediately to ensure claims are not prematurely denied, any associated claims should be handled as follows:
 
1.    When a claim is received and it is related to one of the areas of the PACT Act, add VACO Special Issue 1 upon claims establishment or when the exposure contention is identified.
2.    Initiate development to include gathering records and/or ordering an examination for the specific exposure conditions under existing procedures.
3.    Once the claim is determined to be Ready for Decision, and the claim can be granted on any authority other than the PACT Act Public Law, grant the claim under current authority criteria (e.g., direct or secondary service connection).
4.    If the claim cannot be granted under any authority other than the PACT Act Public Law, process any additional contention(s) or issues unrelated to the exposure and continue the end product. Do not defer the entire claim and do not enter a deferral into VBMS for the unactionable contention(s).
·         If a claim cannot be decided without consideration of PACT Act guidance, use the claim status drop down to return the claim from RFD to open status. Do not use the deferral functionality. Proceed to Step 5.
·         If a partial rating can be completed, proceed with the decision(s) and insert a code sheet note to continue the end product at authorization. Do not enter a deferral for the unactionable PACT contentions. Proceed to Step 5 after authorization is completed on the partial rating. Failure to do so will prompt premature recall and hold by the National Work Queue (NWQ).
         Note:

  •       If a partial rating would result in only denials, use the claim status drop down to return the claim from RFD to open status. Do not issue the partial decision and do not use the deferral functionality.·         Claims for presumptive service connection for asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis under 38 CFR 3.320 regulatory provisions are currently being processed through the Claims Processing Automation model. If the claim cannot be granted under existing regulatory provisions, hold the claim using guidance provided above.

     

5.   Apply NWQ Review Project #4 to the exposure contention(s) or survivor claim if that is the only contention(s) remaining, and no additional action can be taken on the claim. VACO Special Issue 1 should remain on the claim.  This will facilitate automated recall to the NWQ to hold the claim pending further guidance.
NoteFor claims for service-connected death benefits, VA claims processors should apply the above guidance for any claim where:
·         the Veteran’s service falls into one of the expanded exposure populations and there is evidence to indicate the Veteran’s death was caused by or is secondary to one of the existing or newly established presumptive conditions associated with that toxic exposure,
·         there is evidence indicating that the principal or contributory cause of the Veteran’s death is, or is secondary to one of the newly established presumptive conditions and the Veteran’s service meets the current or expanded exposure population criteria associated with the presumptive condition(s),
·         has a specific allegation of eligibility under the PACT Act, or
·         otherwise raises a question as to whether PACT Act may affect eligibility. 
6. For DIC, reevaluation of previously denied claims must be elected, by the claimant, which can result in retroactivity. These unique claims must be identified separately from ‘new’ PACT Act claims by adding VACO Special Issue 6 upon claims establishment or when otherwise identified.

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims assistance for veterans worldwide. Accredited VA claims Agent pursuant 38 C.F.R. §14.629