Whether you’re a new veteran or did not previously qualify for help from the WV Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA) encourages West Virginia veterans to file a claim.
Under the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act (S3373/H.R.3967), more widely known as the PACT Act of 2022, expanded eligibility for VA health care, disability compensation, and other benefits to more than five million veterans nationwide. It was the most impactive law to support veterans passed in more than 30 years. Based on the VA’s estimates, the passage of this law will likely affect between 30,000 and 35,000 West Virginia veterans.
Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) with the Department of Veterans Assistance are experiencing a sharp increase in the number of veterans utilizing our services. Consultations with veterans, the first step in seeking access to benefits, have increased from 4,129 the first quarter of last year to 6,537 the first quarter of this year, a 58 percent increase. Similarly, the number of claims filed on behalf of veterans by our VSOs in the first quarter of last year was 820. Compare that to 1,665 claims in the first quarter of this year, an increase of more than 100 percent.
The PACT Act added twenty-three new presumptive conditions for service in certain dates and locations. Previously, the burden of proof was on the veteran who had to prove that these conditions were caused by their service. When a condition is presumptive, it is considered more likely than not to have been caused or made worse by a Veteran’s service.
Qualifying conditions and locations
Although most of these presumptive conditions involve toxic exposures in post-9/11 conflicts, the Act includes two additional presumptive conditions resulting from exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange. These are Monoclonal Gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).
The Act also adds locations to the list of presumptive locations for herbicide exposure, including the following:
- 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 Miomot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969 through April 30, 1969;
- Guam or American Samoa or Guam or American Samoa territorial waters from January 9, 1962 through July 30, 1980; and
- Johnston Atoll or a ship that called at that location from January 1, 1972 through September 30 1977.
If you have a condition that is presumptive for tactical herbicide exposure that is not service-connected and you served in any of the locations and dates that tactical herbicides were known to have been used, or if you’ve been exposed and have either of these conditions, a VSO can help – even if you’ve filed a claim for them before and been denied.
The new presumptive conditions apply to the following Veterans:
- Veterans who served in any of the following locations on or after August 2, 1990 – Bahrain, Oman, Somalia, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
- Veterans who served in any of the following locations on or after September 11, 2001– Afghanistan, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Djibouti, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, and Syria.
Conditions related to these locations include the following:
- Brain Cancer
- Chronic Rhinitis
- Chronic Sinusitis
- Respiratory Cancer
- Constrictive Bronchiotis
- Head Cancer
- Granulomatous Disease
- Lymphatic Cancer
- Interstitial Lung Disease
- Neck Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Reproductive Cancers
- Chronic Bronchitis
If you are a veteran who has served in any of the listed locations and dates, please contact your nearest Department of Veterans Assistance Benefits Office to make an appointment with a Veteran Service Officer. If you know a veteran who may be eligible for benefits under the PACT Act, please encourage them to make an appointment.