WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, August 10, 2022, the President signed into law a key bipartisan provision authored by U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) to address the mental health impacts of toxic exposure for veterans. Gottheimer’s provision is part of the bipartisan PACT Act signed into law today to expand access to care and benefits for our brave veterans exposed to burn pits and toxic substances.
Of the more than 200,000 veterans who have signed up for the Veterans Affairs (VA) burn pit registry, 70% of claims have been denied. The PACT Act will secure benefits and care for Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan-era veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving overseas. The bill will expand the VA’s benefits and services to roughly 3.5 million veterans.
Gottheimer recently called on the Senate to pass the PACT Act after last month’s House passage, and after 25 Senators voted against the bipartisan bill. Fortunately, the PACT Act has passed both chambers and was signed into law by the President today.
“For far too long, our Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan-era veterans have been sick and dying because of exposure to burn pits and toxic chemicals. With the bipartisan PACT Act and my provision signed into law today, our veterans exposed to toxic substances will finally receive the VA-provided care and benefits they deserve and we’ll be able to examine the impacts toxic exposure has had on our veterans’ mental health,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Our veterans represent the best our nation has to offer — the ones who have sacrificed everything for the freedoms we cherish today. These are not red or blue issues — they are red, white, and blue issues. They are Jersey issues. We must all work together to get the backs of those who’ve bravely had ours.”
Gottheimer’s provision signed into law within the bipartisan PACT Act today will:
- Examine and address veteran mental health impacts of toxic exposure: Gottheimer’s provision directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to examine the possible relationship between toxic exposures experienced during service in the Armed Forces and mental health outcomes.
The PACT Act signed into law today includes these provisions:
- Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras. It will expand benefits and services to roughly 3.5 million veterans.
- Creates a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure.
- Expands VA’s list of service presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures.
- Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every veteran enrolled in VA health care.
- Helps improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures.
- Improves resources to support VA’s claims processing.
Some of the open-air burn pits that exposed our service members to toxic chemicals during deployments were the size of football fields and were used to incinerate everything from used medical supplies and electronics to garbage and human waste.