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Veterans Exposed To Toxins To Access HealthCare Now

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs regards the change in veterans benefits to be one of the largest-ever expansions.

March 18, 2024

The veterans are requested to immediately sign up for medical care under a major revision of federal policy who were exposed to burn pit fumes and other toxic substances.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has expanded its benefits eligibility but this is only for the veterans who were exposed to harmful toxins and other hazards while serving abroad or at home.

The VA spokesman revealed that the federal agency eliminated the phased-in approach through 2032 for enrollment and veterans are also not required to have a service-connected disability to qualify as was the case previously.

This change in veterans’ benefits is one of the largest ever expansions of health care for veterans as it will help Millions who are vulnerable to face medical conditions because of exposure to toxic substances such as cancer so that they can get the much-needed medical care.

President Biden also signed the PACT Act which took effect from January 2023. The PACT Act added nearly two dozen medical conditions to extend benefits to the veterans exposed to burn pit toxins, Agent Orange, and other harmful substances.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has also hired 52,000 more personnel such as physicians, and support staff to work at outpatient clinics and hospitals. According to the VA, around 500,000 veterans enrolled in 2023 and were required to have a service-connected disability to be eligible for this.

The VA estimated 3.5 Million veterans to be eligible under the expansion that took effect on March 5 with the elimination of the phased-in approach and no longer requiring the service-connected disability.

The veterans who are eligible under the recent expansion include:

  • Veterans exposed to toxic substances during their tenure at the military service
  • Veterans working in duty stations in Southwest Asia or Africa.
  • Veterans deployed in support of certain operations after 9/11.

Besides this, the veterans who were never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training are also eligible for the expanded benefits.

The VA news release said, “This means all veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 will be eligible to enroll directly in the VA healthcare without first applying for VA benefits”.

It’s been decades since the burn pits were used to dispose of the waste. Disabled veterans played a significant role in bringing health hazards to the forefront and researching their impact on veterans’ health.

The exposure to burn pits made veterans prone to medical conditions such as respiratory illness and diseases such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema. Some other life-threatening consequences include a long list of cancers and kidney disease.

The Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough revealed that four million veterans deployed over the last 30 years were exposed to burn pits.

There are 1.5 Million veterans in Florida getting their medical care through the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. Bay Pines serves around 105,000 veterans in 10 counties in Central Florida and Southwest Florida.

Local or state officials are finding it difficult to come up with the exact number of veterans eligible under the expanded eligibility.

Bay Pines spokeswoman Medina Ayala-Lo said, “Based on available data, there are approximately 30,000 veterans in the Bay Pines catchment area who do not currently get their care at the VA and who now may be eligible under this historic expansion”.

The change made in veterans’ eligibility for their exposure to toxic substances is critical and so the officers in the communities are ready to help veterans sign up for these benefits.

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The content provided in this article draws inspiration and includes quotes from various reputable sources, including news articles, government data, and interviews. Affordable Housing 411 strives to ensure accuracy and credibility, but the information presented may be based on some external sources. We encourage readers to refer to the referenced materials for more in-depth insights and verification.

Freeman Liz. “Veterans: Were you exposed toxins? Delay for health care eligibility is over”. Naples News, March 18, 2024,
VA expands benefits to millions more veterans exposed to toxins (naplesnews.com)

Last Updated: September 20, 2021