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The VA says it will prioritize 'burn pit' benefits to veterans with cancer

The VA will begin processing PACT Act claims Jan. 1. The agency also announced a new toxic screening process to check for signs of illness and inform vets of benefits.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will expedite claims for veterans with cancer to receive expanded federal health care services for ailments related to toxic “burn pits.”

Also, VA medical centers and clinics are now enrolling veterans in a new toxic screening process, a key part of the a new law that empowers the VA to deliver care and benefits.

The law, known as the PACT Act, was signed into law August 10, Veterans have filed nearly 125,000 related claims. Of those claims, nearly 14,000 are for cancers covered by the act.

The VA will start processing claims Jan. 1.

“We are working hard to get benefits to all veterans who qualify under the PACT Act as soon as possible, and veterans living with cancer are at particular risk,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement release this past week. “Expediting claims for these vets will ensure that they get the care and benefits they need and so rightly deserve.”

The screenings, mandated under the law, will check vets for signs of illness and inform them of new benefits they may qualify for, with officials to conduct the screening for veterans once every five years.

“These screenings are an important step toward making sure that all toxic exposed Veterans get the care and benefits they deserve," McDonough said. “At the end of the day, these screenings will improve health outcomes for Veterans — and there’s nothing more important than that.”

The PACT Act – which is short for the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 – capped a yearslong battle to ensure treatment for chronic illnesses that veterans have blamed on burn pits, which were used to dispose of chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste on military bases. Estimates of affected troops run to 3.5 million.

The act designates 23 diseases, half of them cancers, presumed to be linked to burn pits and other pollutants and environmental hazards from wars.

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