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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 16, 2022

Biden kept promise on increasing access to care for veterans

In August, President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into law, increasing access to care for veterans, which was one of his campaign promises. 

Biden specifically promised to increase access to VA Care beyond the 5-year eligibility window for combat veterans because conditions related to toxic exposure may take years to manifest.

The PACT Act's full name, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, honors a combat medic who died at age 39 from a rare form of lung cancer after exposure to burn pits.

The PACT Act expands access to VA Care coverage for cancer and other illnesses for veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also extends the period of time that post-9/11 combat veterans have to enroll in VA Care from 5 years to 10 years post-discharge. The bill is intended to help veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances.

"Coverage for those issues had been a point of contention for years," the Military Times reported. "In particular, veterans advocates lamented that too many serious problems believed linked to burn pit exposure were being ignored by VA leaders because of incomplete science linking the health problems with the toxic smoke from the waste fires."

Since Biden signed the act Aug. 10, more than 185,000 veterans have applied for related benefits. In four months, more than 660,000 veterans have received the new PACT Act VA toxic exposure screenings,  with nearly 39% reporting a concern of exposure, said Terrence L. Hayes, Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson.

The PACT Act is personal for Biden. In 2016, President Barack Obama tapped Biden to run the White House's "cancer moonshot" soon after Biden's son Beau Biden died of brain cancer after serving in Iraq.

Katie Purswell, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion, said that Biden has met this promise.

"The extension of the 5-year to 10-year window, removal of burden of proof, addition of one-year open enrollment for combat veterans, and potential increase of staff and treatment presents the opportunity for the expansion of benefits leading to an expansion of access to care," Purswell said.

We rate this promise Kept.

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Our Sources

White House, FACT SHEET: President Biden Signs the PACT Act and Delivers on His Promise to America's Veterans, Aug. 10, 2022

VA, The PACT Act and your VA benefits, Accessed Dec. 15, 2022

Military Times, VA starting work on terminally ill vets' PACT Act claims immediately, Dec. 12, 2022

Military Times, VA plans 'week of action' to highlight new toxic exposure benefits, Dec. 9, 2022

Military Times, Nearly 113K claims already filed for PACT Act benefits, Oct. 25, 2022

President Joe Biden's remarks at the Delaware Veterans Summit and PACT Act Town Hall, Dec. 16, 2022

Email interview, Terrence L. Hayes, Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson, Dec. 14, 2022

Email interview, Katie Purswell, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion, Dec. 16, 2022

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