WASHINGTON – The US Department of Veterans Affairs adds nine rare respiratory cancers linked to exposure to the combustion hearth to the list of illnesses eligible for invalidity and health benefits.
President Joe Biden, who said his son Beau Biden’s exposure to toxic fumes from the pits could have led to his death, announced the policy change on Monday, saying in a statement that he hopes to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
“We learned a horrible lesson after Vietnam, when the harmful effects of Agent Orange exposure sometimes took years to show up, and too many veterans weren’t able to access the care they needed. needed,” Biden said. “I refuse to repeat that mistake when it comes to veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The VA said Monday it would begin processing disability compensation claims for former U.S. service members who were in Southwest Asia from August 2, 1990 until present or in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria or in Uzbekistan from September 19, 2001 to the present.
Cancers include squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx, squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea, adenocarcinoma of the trachea, salivary gland tumors of the trachea, adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung, large cell carcinoma of the lung, tumors of the salivary gland type of the lung, sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung and typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.
The VA said it plans to contact veterans who fall under the new rule, which will be released Tuesday, or survivors, to tell them how to apply for benefits.
Veterans or survivors whose previous claims have been denied can file an additional request for benefits, according to VA announcement.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement that the policy change will ensure “veterans who suffer from these rare respiratory cancers will finally get” the health care and benefits they “deserve, without having to to prove the causality between their service and their status”.
The VA said “a focused review of scientific and medical evidence” determined that “there is biological plausibility between airborne hazards and respiratory tract carcinogenesis – and the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of connection on duty”.
Biden originally announced the VA would add nine cancers to the eligibility list during his State of the Union address in March.
At the time, Biden said fire pits — which incinerate medical and hazardous equipment, jet fuel and other substances — were one of the many dangers American soldiers faced while on deployments.
“When they got home, many of the fittest, best-trained warriors in the world weren’t the same,” Biden said during his speech. “Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. Cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin.
Biden, in his State of the Union address and statement on Monday, called on Congress to “pass bipartisan legislation to comprehensively address toxic exposures and provide more of the life-saving benefits our veterans have earned.” .
The US Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill by Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran in mid-February, it is the first of three pieces of legislation intended to address health care needs related to fireplaces.
When announcing billion-dollar legislation in early February, Moran said 3.5 million veterans had experienced some level of toxic exposure since 9/11.
“This is the first step in a continuum to ensure that those who have been exposed to toxic substances and who therefore suffer in their health and well-being, receive medical benefits” , Moran said at the time.
The American House vote 256-174 in early March to approve a invoice it would be much wider in scope and price.
This legislation, called the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics or PACT Act, would cost an estimated $280 billion over the next decade.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, said during a floor debate that the legislation would “expand access to health care and benefits for veterans to address the effects of these toxic exposures that occurred during their military service”.
“We asked our veterans to go fight for America, and they answered that call,” Hoyer said. “When they return home, veterans shouldn’t have to fight bureaucracy to receive the medical care and benefits they’ve earned through their service.”