The Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating whether service members who suffer from acute leukemias, chronic leukemias and multiple myeloma outside of the head and neck were exposed to toxins while serving overseas. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
July 25 (UPI) — In an effort to boost benefits under the PACT Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it is investigating a possible link between three cancers and exposure to toxins for service members who served overseas.
The VA is looking into whether service members who suffer from acute leukemias, chronic leukemias and multiple myeloma outside of the head and neck, may have been exposed to toxins while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Uzbekistan and the entire Southwest Asia theater of operations.
“We won’t rest until we understand whether there’s a connection between these deadly conditions and the service of our nation’s heroes,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
The scientific review is being done to help the VA determine whether these conditions should be categorized as presumptive, which means eligible veterans do not need to prove their military service caused their disease in order to receive benefits.
“Veterans shouldn’t wait for this review process to conclude to apply for the support they deserve,” McDonough added. “If you’re a veteran living with acute leukemia, chronic leukemia or multiple myeloma, don’t wait — apply for your VA care and benefits today.”
For these three cancers, VA is currently considering each claim on a case-by-case basis while granting disability compensation benefits if there is enough evidence to show the veteran’s disability is related to their service.
While cancers of the head and neck are already considered presumptive under the PACT Act — which expands veteran benefits under the Biden administration and stands for Patient Aligned Care Team — the current research is focused on acute and chronic leukemias, as well as multiple myeloma, that originate outside of the head and neck.
Since President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into law last August, VA has delivered more than $1.6 billion in PACT Act-related benefits to veterans and their survivors, as more than 4 million veterans since November have received new toxic exposure screenings.
“Attention all veterans exposed to toxins. New legislation expands eligibility to Vietnam, Gulf War and post-9/11 era veterans,” the Department of Veterans Affairs wrote in a tweet Monday, urging qualified veterans to seek disability compensation and free health care.
Toxic Exposure, PACT Act.
Attention all Veterans exposed to toxins. New legislation expands eligibility to Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 era Veterans.
Go to https://t.co/PfYz64UGAr to see if you qualify for disability compensation or free health care. pic.twitter.com/rKpB80jhVp— Veterans Affairs (@DeptVetAffairs) July 25, 2023