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Biden to Announce More Than 1 Million Toxic Exposure Claims Awarded Under New Veterans Act

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, intent on selling his legislative achievements this election year, will travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday to detail the impact of a law that would help veterans obtain important benefits from a burn or other exposure to toxic substances while on duty.

In raw numbers, more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022, the administration said Tuesday. That amounts to approximately 888,000 veterans and survivors in all 50 states who have been able to receive disability benefits under the law.

That amounts to about $5.7 billion in benefits for veterans and their survivors, according to the government.

“For too long now, I think, the president has believed that too many veterans who became ill while serving and fighting for our country also had to fight the VA for their care,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told reporters Monday.

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The PACT Act is relatively less well-known compared to the president’s other legislative achievements — such as a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a sweeping tax, climate and health care package — but it is one that is deeply personal to Biden.

He has blamed the burns on the brain cancer that killed his son Beau, who served in Iraq, and has repeatedly promised to sign the PACT Act into law. Burn pits were used to dump chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But before the PACT Act became law, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied 70% of disability claims involving burn exposure. Now the law requires the VA to presume that certain respiratory diseases and cancer are linked to burns or other toxic exposures without the veterans having to prove the link.

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