V.A. Has Approved 1 Million Claims Under Burn Pit Law, Biden to Announce

V.A. Has Approved 1 Million Claims Under Burn Pit Law, Biden to Announce


President Biden plans to announce on Tuesday that his administration has approved more than one million claims from veterans injured by toxic exposures during their service, actions made possible by a new law he championed, officials said.

The president signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act, into law in the summer of 2022, with the goal of quickly getting benefits to veterans who had been suffering from a variety of maladies that did not qualify for treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The president, I think, has believed that for too long, too many veterans who got sick, serving and fighting for our country, had to fight the V.A. for their care, too,” Denis McDonough, the veterans affairs secretary, said on Monday. He said Mr. Biden demanded that the V.A. “act quickly to be better, to do better.”

Mr. Biden is expected to travel to the Merrimack YMCA in New Hampshire on Tuesday for an event in which he will announce the milestone.

Officials told reporters on Monday that more than 888,000 veterans and their surviving family members are the recipients of about $5.7 billion in health benefits from the one million claims approved under the PACT Act since its passage.

That includes veterans suffering from cancer, allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma, hypertension, sinusitis and other conditions, often related to the respiratory system. The law is aimed at providing support for veterans exposed to toxins, often from open burn pits that spewed them near where soldiers were living and working.

The issue is personal for Mr. Biden, who has long speculated that his son Beau developed brain cancer because of exposure to burn pits when he served in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard. Before signing the legislation, Mr. Biden described the lingering effects of the exposures.

“Toxic smoke, thick with poisons, spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops,” the president said at the time. “When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.”

The president’s re-election campaign is aggressively trying to highlight his successes, especially those with bipartisan support, as he seeks a second term in the White House this year. The burn pit legislation passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly, including opposition from just 11 Republican senators.

The announcement is a bright spot for a department that has long been assailed by veterans and their advocates for failing to provide benefits in a timely manner, and until recently has been plagued by turnover at the top.

Eric Shinseki resigned as veterans affairs secretary in 2014 amid a scandal involving delayed care at the agency’s hospitals that led to some veterans dying while they were waiting to be seen. Officials said on Monday that wait times for veterans have declined even as the hospitals have been treating more patients, in part as a result of the PACT Act.

President Donald J. Trump fired David J. Shulkin, his first V.A. secretary, in 2018. The agency’s inspector general had been critical of Mr. Shulkin’s overseas travel on the job.



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