Forward Observer: What is Happening to “Honoring our PACT” Legislation

Published by Rich Hudzinski on

HR 3967 has been the major veterans organizations’ primary legislative focus for the current congressional legislative season, and with good reason, for it finally brings to conclusion a number of issues related to toxic exposures, among other items, that have long haunted veterans healthcare. Finally, passed by the Senate in mid-June, with amendment, after sitting since March, it has made its way back to the House for a final vote or conference with the Senate, if necessary.

If passed this bill, which is a very high likelihood despite its $300 to $400 billion estimated price tag, it would address these issues, according to the Congressional Research Service:

  • Eligibility for VA medical care, including mental health services and counseling, to veterans who (1) participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (a qualifying activity that requires a corresponding entry in an exposure tracking record system), (2) served in specified locations on specified dates, or (3) deployed in support of a specified contingency operation.
  • Establishment of the Formal Advisory Committee on Toxic Exposure to assist with the various procedures in establishing or removing presumptions of service-connection.  This something that hopefully will improve VA response to longstanding issues which have been contentious. 
  • Modifies or establishes the presumption of service-connection for certain conditions or purposes for various groups of veterans.  The “Thailand issue” from the Vietnam war and others will finally be settled.

Among other requirements, the VA must provide a veteran with a medical examination regarding the nexus between a disability and toxic exposure risk activity if a veteran submits a disability compensation claim for a service-connected disability with insufficient evidence, incorporate a clinical questionnaire to help determine potential toxic exposures as part of the initial screening conducted for veterans with a VA primary care provider, and establish a registry for current or past servicemembers who may have been exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (the PFA issue).

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As of 24 June 2022