After a contentious few weeks, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill intended to expand health care access and disability benefits for the roughly 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in the military.
During the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military incinerated chemicals, medical waste, plastics, unexploded artillery, petroleum, and other hazardous waste in open-air burn pits. Exposure to these burn pit fumes have since been connected to short- and long-term health issues, including various cancers and respiratory illnesses, among veterans.
The legislation, known as the PACT Act, passed 86-11 after several weeks of heated debate that hinged on language regarding spending. Veterans exposed to burn pits who have been diagnosed with any of 23 different health conditions will now receive increased disability benefits without having responsibility for burden of proof. Nearly 80 percent of disability claims related to prolonged burn pit exposure had been denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs between 2007 and 2020.
To file a disability claim online or to learn more about benefits available through the PACT Act, visit the VA website.