Veterans granted over 1M toxic exposure claims under PACT Act

A law passed under President Joe Biden has helped veterans get key benefits as a result of burn pit or other toxic exposure during their service. 

His administration said Tuesday more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022. 

That amounts to about 888,000 veterans and survivors in all 50 states who have been able to receive disability benefits under the law, amounting to about $5.7 billion, according to the administration.

Before the PACT Act became law, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied 70% of disability claims that involved burn pit exposure. Now, the law requires the VA to assume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit or other toxic exposure without the veterans having to prove the link.

Burn pits are where chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste were disposed of on military bases and were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.


FILE - Two interpreters for Bravo troop dump their trash in the bases "burn pit." Bravo Troop was part of a U.S. surge into Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Date unknown. (Photo by Sebastian Meyer/Corbis via Getty Images)

Comedian Jon Stewart played a leading role in pushing for the PACT Act.

Its passage was a bipartisan success but also a personal victory for Biden, who has long believed that his eldest son, Beau, developed fatal brain cancer from serving near burn pits in Iraq as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Biden was traveling to New Hampshire Tuesday to speak on the impact of the law. 

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The PACT Act 

The PACT Act is a law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.

It designated several cancers and illnesses as presumptive for Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans.

The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

It was passed in August 2022 and is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history, according to the VA. 

PACT Act deadline

Veterans and survivors can file for benefits anytime; there is no deadline. 

Get more information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs here

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.