New legislation recently signed into law by President Joe Biden expands healthcare benefits for all veterans subjected to toxic chemicals during deployment.

Senator Sherrod Brown stopped at American Legion in East Liverpool to get the word out after he pushed for this change.

"This is a really big deal," Brown said, "This is tens of thousands of men and women who have served this country."

It's a significant expansion in the Department of Veteran Affairs healthcare called the Heath Robinson PACT Act. This is the "Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics," named after an Ohio veteran, Heath Robinson, who passed away from lung cancer at 39 after fighting for our country in Iraq.

Like many military members, Robinson was subjected to burn pits, which disposed of hazardous materials.

"Everything from computer equipment to medical waste to tires to body parts to other things," Brown said. 

Many breathed this in and later got sick.

Senator Brown's office said the change in law means there is no burden of proof whether a toxic environment from deployment causes 23 different health issues, ranging from types of cancer to Asthma.

The presumptive illness and diseases include:

  • Brain cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
  • Glioblastoma
  • Head cancer of any type
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphatic cancer of any type
  • Lymphoma of any type
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Reproductive cancer of any type
  • Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type
  • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

All veterans are eligible, and if they have any of the above conditions, they automatically qualify.

Lisbon Veteran David Oesch said this impacts him after he was surrounded by burn pits while also serving in Iraq.

"I don't smoke," Oesch said, "But I've been diagnosed with COPD. I have nodules in my lungs."

Heath Robinson's mother-in-law Susan Zeier, now an activist for Veteran healthcare, was a major force in fighting for this legislation.

"Before the PACT Act, the burden was put on the sick soldier," Zeier said, "terminally ill soldiers and their families to prove that their illness was caused by their deployment."

She said this was a much-needed change.

The expansion also includes benefits for veterans exposed to agent orange and benefits for family members of veterans. 

For more information and to register, call the VA at 800-698-2411 or click here. 

You can also contact your county veteran services office, the American Legion, or VFW for guidance.