The toxic exposure law signed earlier this year means that veterans with cancer will get priority when benefit claims under the new sweeping legislation begin to be processed, Military News has reported.
"I'm proud to announce for the first time today, on National Cancer Awareness Day, that we're expediting benefits delivery for veterans with cancer conditions covered in this law," Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough said at the National Press Club.
McDonough stressed that the department "will not rest … [until] every veteran gets the care they need and the benefits they deserve."
The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, designated 23 diseases, including many types of cancer, as presumed to be linked to burn pits used during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, meaning veterans with these illnesses will have an easier way to claim health care and disability benefits through the VA, according to Military News
The VA is scheduled to start processing these claims on Jan. 1.
The announcement on prioritizing claims from veterans with cancer is one of several steps the VA is taking as it starts to implement the PACT Act.
One of the most significant is that veterans making their first visit to VA healthcare facilities will be given a new toxic exposure screening. This is intended to check individuals for any signs of illness and inform them of new benefits for which they may qualify, according to The Hill.
Officials will conduct the screening for veterans once every five years.
Almost 137,000 veterans have filed claims for benefits since the PACT Act was signed into law in August, McDonough said, which is an increase from the 113,000 claims filed just a couple of weeks ago, Military Times reported.
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