Veterans Affairs (VA) is investigating whether three additional types of cancer, namely acute leukemias, chronic leukemias, and multiple myeloma, should be associated with exposure to military toxins such as smoke from burn pits in recent wars. The decision could expedite disability benefits for thousands more veterans.
- The VA is conducting scientific studies to ascertain if acute leukemias, chronic leukemias, and multiple myeloma in veterans are likely linked to their military service in Iraq, Afghanistan and much of Southwest Asia. Military personnel in these areas were exposed to dust, pollution, and smoke from large military waste fires, which may have contributed to these diseases.
- This move is part of the administration’s ongoing focus on toxic exposure issues and follows the passage of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) a year ago.
- The PACT Act has facilitated the provision of presumptive benefit status for 12 types of cancer and 12 other respiratory illnesses associated with burn pit exposure, along with conditions like hypertension among Vietnam veterans and radiation-related illnesses for veterans who served in the 1960s and early 1970s.
- Veterans with presumptive status are exempted from lengthy medical reviews and paperwork to prove that their illness is linked to their military service, accelerating their disability benefits process.
- Since the PACT Act was signed into law, the VA has paid more than $1.6 billion in related benefits to veterans and their survivors, and 700,000 individuals have applied for benefits under the law.