Published by Patricia Kime
(U.S. Army photo)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering changes to its disability rating system for some conditions to bring it in line with modern medicine, the agency announced.
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on landmark legislation that would expedite health care and disability payments to millions of veterans exposed to burn pits and other military environmental exposures.
The $282 billion Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act would designate 23 illnesses as likely linked to battlefield pollutants, paving the way for veterans diagnosed with these diseases to receive Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
If it became law, the bill would be the most comprehensive legislation to address combat environmental exposures since the Agent Orange Act of 1991, which declared that defoliants used during the Vietnam War likely caused at least a dozen types of illnesses in veterans.
Currently, the VA decides post-9/11 exposure claims on a case-by-case basis, with the exception of those filed for asthma, rhinitis or sinusitis. Affected veterans must prove a connection between their illnesses and their military service, either demonstrating exposure or bringing in experts to support their claims.
Kate Hendricks Thomas, a Marine Corps veteran diagnosed at age 38 with stage 4 breast cancer, had her claim approved after many years of fighting, but not before she spent thousands to treat the cancer she said has spread from "her skull to her toes."
"I was exposed to burn pits in Baghdad, in Fallujah, all over the country," Thomas said on a Tuesday call in which several lawmakers and veterans spoke with reporters....
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