By RICHIE MALOUF
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) — President Joe Biden signed the veterans health care bill known as the PACT Act Wednesday, expanding health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxins.
After a short struggle between Senate Democrats and Republicans, the PACT Act has been signed into law and will offer benefits and services to more than five million veterans exposed to toxins during their time of service.
“The law expands access to healthcare and disability benefits for veterans harmed by toxic exposure,” President Biden said before signing the bill. “It empowers the Department of Veterans Affairs to move quickly to determine service members’ illness and related military service to see if they qualify.”
The bill will codify the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs process of determining presumption of exposure and service connection for various chronic conditions.
Additionally, veterans diagnosed with one of 23 specified conditions will no longer have to prove that their diagnosis comes from their time of service.
The repeal of the requirement attempts to grant veterans the benefits they need sooner by reducing the paperwork and need for tests that veterans must complete before becoming eligible for healthcare and disability compensation.
The bill will also require veterans enrolled in VA health care to be screened regularly for toxic exposure-related concerns and invests in opening 31 VA health care clinics and research facilities in 19 states.
Proponents of the bill say it will help expand health care benefits to veterans who earned them in their time of service.
“The PACT Act is a historic win for veterans and our country,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “While we will never be able to fully repay our servicemembers and their families for their sacrifice, we can and must care for them now.”