FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Announces Measures to Address Health Effects of Military Exposures
Exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards is a major health concern for Veterans of all generations. There are also gaps and delays in the scientific evidence demonstrating conclusive links between known exposures and health effects, leaving many veterans without access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and high treatment. quality to treat important health problems. For example, it took decades to provide access to compensatory benefits and health care to many Vietnamese-era veterans for conditions believed to be linked to exposure to Agent Orange. For the new generation of veterans, concerns about fireplaces and other exposures continue to grow. While the federal government has taken some steps to address these issues, including setting up registries to track veterans exposed to potentially hazardous substances, the Biden-Harris administration is committed to doing more to allow rapid access. services and benefits for people potentially exposed to hazardous materials. .
As we celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have worn the United States uniform, the Administration moves forward to support our service members and veterans who may have faced environmental dangers by:
Develop and test a model to establish a service connection. It can be difficult for veterans to prove a link with disabilities resulting from environmental hazards. To alleviate this difficulty, the VA can create presumptions of exposure to establish a service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence for environmental exposure and associated health risks is strong overall but difficult. to be proven on an individual basis. In order to provide faster benefits to veterans who have developed disabilities due to exposure to environmental hazards and to reduce the burden of proof on these veterans, VA has developed a new model to speed up the process of making decision to consider adding new presumptive conditions. This new model not only takes into account consensus reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, but also includes analyzes of data from other sources, including data from the Veterans Benefits Administration. and the Veterans Health Administration. The new model uses a multifaceted scale to assess the strength of scientific and other evidence and enable VA to make policy decisions faster on key exposures. VA has successfully applied this model to examine the association between particulate matter exposures and three respiratory conditions, as announced last May.
Addition of new presumptive conditions. In August, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis based on suspected exposure to the particles. Veterans who have served in the Southwest Asian theater of operations and other regions and who have developed these conditions within 10 years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care. This regulation was based on the application of the new presumptive model and involved careful examination of a study conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as other evidence reviewed by experts in the VA subject.
Applying a New Model to Examine the Evidence of Service Connection for Rare Respiratory Cancers and Constrictive Bronchiolitis. VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-like tumors. the trachea. The president asked VA to complete the rare cancer review and provide recommendations on the new suspected connection to the service within 90 days. Based on the results of this review, the Administration will consider putting in place additional rules. Once the process is complete, the Administration will continue to test this model on additional health conditions and exposures to ensure faster consideration and consideration of a potential connection to the service.
Improve data on individual exposures. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) is the main application of the Ministry of Defense and AV to monitor, record and assess environmental and occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Currently, the ILER is not expected to reach full operational capacity until September 2023. To ensure the full capacity of the ILER, the DoD plans to expand and accelerate the development schedule and add additional data, allowing thus obtaining more complete information on the health risks of potential exposures. incorporated more quickly into medical care and benefits decisions for military and veterans.
Awareness of the benefits of VA related to military exposures. Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for the benefits and services associated with potential military exhibits. In addition, some claims arbitrators may not be aware of recent policies relating to conditions newly presumed to be related to the service. In October 2021, VA launched an awareness campaign to educate military and veterans about the eligibility and benefits of chronic disabilities that may be due to military exposures while in service. This includes efforts to incorporate educational and awareness materials into Transition Assistance Programs (TAPs) and as part of the Solid Start program, which targets military members in transition at regular intervals during the first year. following their military separation. VA will also launch new public service announcements and live events to encourage early and regular engagement with VA and other federal agencies for benefits, health care, and other services. VA also plans to provide refresher trainings to all claims processors, share information related to military exhibits, and host a series of question-and-answer sessions related to the implementation of the alleged new disabilities that have been put. implemented this summer. VA will also review Frequently Asked Questions documents and call scripts to ensure that frontline employees are able to better assist veterans throughout the claims process.
Develop training for VA and non-VA providers. Veterans often find that their providers and compensation and pension reviewers are not well trained to understand or deal with Veterans exposure issues. To address this issue, VA contracted with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) to provide a five-module certificate training program on military environmental exposures. This will provide a basic skill level to all VA and non-VA providers across the country, which will help better treat veterans concerned about toxic exposures. VA will require all providers to complete the first module of this training for a basic understanding of the health effects of military exposures and will encourage the remaining four modules to be certified.
Establishment of a network of specialized service providers and a call center. Veterans concerned about the health effects of military exposures receive inconsistent care to address these specific issues, especially outside of VA. Starting in 2022, VA will launch VET-HOME, The Veterans Exposure Team-Health Outcomes of Military Exposures. VET-HOME will consist of two interconnected parts: a call center for veterans and providers, and a national network of specialists. Veterans with questions about environmental exposures will call a central location and be guided through the registry review or environmental exposure process. They would then be referred to one of 40 environmental health providers across the United States who would use a telemedicine platform to assess and, if necessary, refer the veteran to a VA facility to perform any specialized testing, such as a lung function test or other lab work. Suppliers with questions about military exposures would be referred to one of 40 military environmental health experts. The results of the consultation would be shared with the veteran’s primary care physician, which would help provide better care.
Extension of the eligibility period for VA health care. Some Veterans do not worry about their health for several years after deployment or leaving service. Currently, VA allows veterans to receive free health care for up to 5 years after release or release for any condition related to service in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. This is called an âextended eligibility periodâ. To ensure that veterans who served in these conflicts have access to VA health care, the administration will ask Congress to implement a change in the law to allow a longer and improved enrollment period for the 3 million veterans deployed to support recent combat operations.
Together, these actions will improve our understanding of the health effects of military-related exposures, educate providers and veterans about these exposures, and provide faster access to health services and benefits for those who have been exposed. . The Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who have been exposed to environmental risks during their military service. At the same time, the administration will work with Congress on its continuing encouraging efforts to ensure that we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-related disabilities, in order to meet our sacred obligation to provide veterans get the care they need. won.