PACT Act of 2022 Changes Veterans’ Benefits
Have you seen U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in the news recently? On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act of 2022 or its full name, The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. This law made sweeping new changes to help Veterans and others get the benefits they deserve.
Let’s compare what benefits were available and to whom prior to this law and what benefits are now available and who is eligible for them related to Camp Lejeune. Between specific dates in 1953-1987, hundreds of thousands of people at Camp Lejeune drank and bathed in the water including Veterans, their families, workers, and service people. Prior to the PACT Act and beginning as late as 2017, if you were a Veteran, a Reservist, or a Guardsman with an illness that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considered to be a “presumptive illness,” you only had to prove you had the disease and you were at Camp Lejeune in the required time period. In other words, normally a “connection” or “nexus” between your injury or illness and your military service is required, but with the PACT Act, the VA automatically assumes the connection.
After your claim’s evaluation, you were awarded a disability rating between 0% and 100%. If you had other illnesses or injuries, these could be combined to get a higher rating. For example, if you retired from the military and were awarded a 40% rating, you could receive your retirement pay and service-connected disability benefits at the same time. One needs to achieve or be awarded a 50% rating to get both retirement pay and service-connected disability benefits at the same time. With proper application and proof, family members of service members with one of these presumptive illnesses could receive health benefits, too.
Enter the Pact Act of 2022. This act provides the ability to sue the federal government for the suffering and loss associated with exposure to these toxic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune. As a Veteran, you may very well have both avenues open- a service-connected claim and a lawsuit- even if you were previously denied a service-connection for this type of claim. It’s extremely important that you carefully research for an attorney with the right expertise to help you with these claims.
Partner at Holliman & Holliman, PLLC
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