The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act introduced over two dozen new presumptive conditions, most connected to overseas burn pits and chemical exposures. Since its enactment in 2022, the PACT Act has helped well over 1.5 million Veterans receive free screenings at medical centers nationwide.
However, for many Veterans, the full range of benefits offered by this legislation remains somewhat illusory. Between August 2022 and July 2023, an estimated 706,413 Veterans filed PACT Act-related claims—but scarcely half were resolved within the same timeframe, despite significant procedural changes intended to reduce processing delays. Veterans have been denied compensation for modest technical errors and minor oversights, many related to missing service records and incomplete health histories.
Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, has spent decades fighting for the rights of America’s wounded warriors. While we understand that taking on the VA is often anything but easy, our experienced team is committed to ensuring that Veterans receive unparalleled legal representation. If you need help filing a PACT Act-related claim, we can help you navigate VA bureaucracy to receive the benefits you deserve.
Common PACT Act Conditions and Claims
Although the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act encompasses over two dozen new presumptive conditions, a disproportionate number of claims are filed for a narrow set of diseases and disorders.
1. Hypertensive Vascular Disease
High blood pressure is a documented side-effect of exposure to both burn pits and Vietnam War-era Agent Orange. Hypertensive vascular disease, often referred to as hypertensive cardiovascular disease, is a condition that results from long-term, uncontrolled high blood pressure. It can cause symptoms including, but not limited to, the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Left untreated, hypertensive vascular disease can be life-threatening, with strokes and heart attacks reported among patients. It's important to note that in many cases, however, hypertensive vascular disease is asymptomatic or may have mild, non-specific symptoms. Many Veterans are unaware of their condition until it is detected during a routine medical checkup or when complications arise.
So far, an estimated 117,000 Veterans have submitted VA claims for this condition, of which a staggering 20% have been denied.
2. Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is a condition characterized by inflammation inside the nose. In the civilian population, this condition is usually caused by longer-term exposure to particular allergens, like pollen or mold. Related symptoms include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Post-nasal drip
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Frequent headaches
While allergic rhinitis is not life-threatening, it can make Veterans feel constantly tired, fatigued, or otherwise uncomfortable. More than 72,000 Veterans have already submitted PACT Act-related claims for allergic rhinitis.
3. Maxillary Sinusitis
Maxillary sinusitis is a type of chronic sinusitis caused by an inflammation of the sinuses underlying the facial bones and nose cavity. Exposure to burn pits and other toxins is believed to both cause sinusitis and worsen pre-existing cases of sinusitis.
While about 34,000 Veterans have applied for sinusitis relief under the PACT Act, nearly half of such claims have been denied.
4. Bronchial Asthma
Bronchial asthma, or asthma, is a common lung disease. People who have been diagnosed with asthma have narrow and swollen airways, which are blocked by mucus. This mucus can impede airflow, making it difficult—and sometimes impossible—to breathe.
Exposure to burn pits can cause asthma; it can also worsen existing cases of asthma. Like maxillary sinusitis, a significant percentage of bronchial asthma claims have been denied.
5. Malignant Growths of the Genitourinary System
Scientists typically use the term “malignant growth” to refer to tumors that are either cancerous or exhibit cancer-like characteristics. Malignant growths of the genitourinary system, then, are suspected cancerous masses found in and around the urinary tract.
People with genitourinary growths do not always realize that they are sick. They may suffer from limited symptoms, including:
- Blood in the urine
- General fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Many cases of genitourinary system-related cancer can be cured with treatment, especially if the tumor is detected early or at a younger age.
However, obtaining Department of Veteran Affairs benefits can be difficult. According to the VA’s own findings, about 32% of Veterans with this condition were denied PACT Act-related compensation and care.
Common Reasons for PACT Act Benefit Denials
The PACT Act is supposed to guarantee Veterans some measure of care for presumptive service-connected connections. However, obtaining benefits is often significantly more difficult than simply filing an application.
1. Unclear Diagnosis
The Department of Veteran Affairs can, by law, only extend benefits for presumptive service-related connections if the applying Veteran has been diagnosed with a presumptive service-connected disease.
The VA may request a Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination to evaluate a Veteran's condition. During this examination, a VA health care provider will assess the disability and establish a formal diagnosis that can be used to support the claim.
If the VA disputes a diagnosis or denies a claim based on medical evidence, they will issue a formal decision letter explaining the reasons for the denial. In response, the Veteran has the option to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within one year from the date of the decision. After filing an NOD, the Veteran can submit additional evidence to support their claim. This evidence can include medical records, expert opinions, statements from treating physicians, and any other relevant documentation that addresses the VA's concerns or disputes.
2. Condition Is Not Incurred or Caused by Military Service
The Department of Veteran Affairs maintains exacting criteria for how benefits can be awarded for presumptive service-connected conditions. If an applicant is unable to demonstrate that they served in a particular area or that they were more likely than not exposed to certain toxins, they could be denied care and forced to appeal.
Many of these denials can be successfully challenged, provided that the Veteran prepares the right documentation. This may necessitate locating service records and obtaining testimonials from friends, family, and medical providers.
3. Not Established by Presumption
Different presumptive service-connected conditions are assessed very differently. Some illnesses are only eligible for benefits if symptoms appear by or before a certain date, while others—like Agent Orange-related conditions—could be eligible even if symptoms do not appear for decades after discharge.
If your condition doesn’t qualify for a presumptive service connection, you’ll need to produce additional documentation to demonstrate that your disability is caused by your military service. The PACT Act won’t speed up your claim, but working with a qualified VA disability attorney can help you move forward.
How Our VA Disability Attorneys Can Help You Receive PACT Act Benefits
The PACT Act broadly:
- Creates a framework for Veterans to receive toxic exposure screenings
- Expands benefits eligibility to Veterans who may have been exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic compounds
- Enlarges the list of presumptive service-connected conditions to include new respiratory diseases and disorders
Unlike other attempts at reform, the PACT Act promises eligibility to most Veterans who served in modern conflicts, including the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and any post-9/11 conflict. Unfortunately, many Veterans are still left struggling to receive the care that they need and the compensation that they deserve.
Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, has spent decades helping American warriors navigate the Department of Veteran Affairs’ byzantine bureaucracy. We can help you fight for your rights by:
- Filing the right paperwork
- Collecting service records, medical documents, and other vital information
- Helping you obtain testimonials from your physician, friends, or family
- Ensuring that your claims comply with VA regulations
- Identifying errors in the VA's decisions and working to correct them through the appeals process
- Working with medical experts and other professionals to gather additional evidence to strengthen your case during the appeals process
- Representing you before the BVA or in administrative hearings