Veterans Day 2022 - The PACT Act Expands Veterans Health Care Benefits

Cecili Weber, Development & Foundation Content Manager

LUNGevity Foundation proudly supports U.S. Veterans and recognizes the many in our community who have selflessly served. United States military members are at an increased risk for injuries and illnesses, including several types of cancer, presumably due to environmental exposures while serving. This Veterans Day comes after a major win for Veterans health services and support, specifically for those at risk for developing conditions like lung cancer.

The bipartisan PACT Act, signed into law in August 2022, is hailed as the most significant expansion to VA benefits in the last 30 years. The law supports the over 5 million veterans, across generations, who may be impacted by toxic exposures while serving.

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, is named after the decorated National Guard Veteran who passed away in April of 2020 from Stage IV Adenocarcinoma lung cancer. Sergeant First Class Robinson was an advocate for Veteran’s rights who worked to bring attention to the dangers of toxic exposure in the line of duty. His cancer was attributed to smoke exposure from burn pits during his deployment to Iraq between 2006-2007. [1]

Tom Galli, retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Army and lung cancer survivor, shared that he has wondered if there is a link between his military service and his diagnosis. “As a former smoker, I once had little doubt that smoking caused my lung cancer. Yet almost everyone in my immediate family smoked and none developed the disease. I’ve often wondered if the unique hazards of armed forces training and warfare played a role in my disease. I’ve inhaled a lot of stuff during my Army career – from burn pit smoke to fumes and vapor from aluminum welding - and maybe that had a hand in the development of my lung cancer.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PACT Act will ensure the following:

  • 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 VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures[2]

Importantly, the bill extends the period that combat veterans can enroll in VA healthcare after discharge – from 5 years to 10 years – and creates a 1-year open enrollment period for those whose service falls outside of that window.  We urge veterans to learn more and see if the PACT Act can benefit you and your loved ones.

The VA website offers a comprehensive overview of eligibility and enrollment directions. If you or a loved one is a veteran with a lung cancer diagnosis, the online Lung Cancer Support Community (LCSC) has a specific forum for U.S. Veterans. You can access the forums or sign up for the LCSC here.

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