Veterans who served on Guam and suffer from diseases associated with Agent Orange will be eligible for care under legislation signed by President Biden on Thursday.
The military has denied the use of Agent Orange on Guam, but veterans have argued for years that they applied the herbicide to control vegetation at various locations around the island.
Del. Michael San Nicolas, who pushed for the legislation in the House of Representatives, has previously said that federal recognition of Agent Orange use here will allow Guam to explore “exposure consequences throughout the island, opening the door for us to make our case that community impacts need consideration.”
The Veterans Agent Orange Exposure Equity Act of 2022, a section of the legislation signed by Biden, “expands the presumption of service-connection for diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents for veterans who served in Vietnam.
Specifically, the bill expands the presumption to cover veterans who served during specified time frames in Thailand at any U.S. or Royal Thai bases, Laos, Cambodia, Guam or American Samoa, or the waters thereof, or on Johnson Atoll. Under the bill, such veterans are eligible for VA hospital care, medical services and nursing home care.
For Guam, the specified time frame of service is 1962 to July 31, 1980.
The legislation signed by Biden was a comprehensive veteran’s benefits package dealing with toxic exposure through military service.
In addition to expanding coverage for Agent Orange exposure, the Honoring our PACT Act opened federal health care services for millions of veterans who served at military bases where waste was disposed of in “burn pits.”
The law caps a lengthy battle to ensure treatment for chronic illnesses that veterans have blamed on burn pits, which were used to dispose of chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste on military bases. Estimates of affected troops run to 3.5 million.
This legislation is considered to be the largest expansion of veteran’s health care in more than three decades.
Beginning January 17, 2023, all veterans will be able to access emergency mental health care free of charge at any Veterans Affairs medical facility or outside clinic, regardless of whether they are already enrolled in department health care services.
Department officials announced the new policy last Friday as part of nationwide efforts to prevent suicide among veterans. According to the latest department data, about 17 veterans a day die by suicide.
“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve, no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This expansion of care will save veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced six burial updates and one new identification for service members who have been missing and unaccounted-for from World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
The Department of Defense has released the 2023 Basic Allowance for Housing rates. Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase an average of 12.1 percent when the new rates took effect on January 1, 2023. An estimated $26.8 billion will be paid to approximately one million Service members. The significant increase in average BAH rates is reflective of the unique market conditions experienced across many locations nationwide over the past year. While average BAH rates increased substantially, different rental markets experience different market trends, and the 2023 BAH rates reflect those geographic market condition differences.
The 2023 Basic Allowance for Housing rates, as part of a robust military compensation package, continue the member cost-sharing element at five percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. These amounts vary by grade and dependency status and range from $82 to $184 monthly for the 2023 rates. Even with this cost-sharing element, the overall military pay and benefits package remains competitive and healthy.
As an example, an E-5 with dependents at Patrick Space Force Base, Cocoa Beach Florida, would be entitled to $2,694.00.
For more information on the Basic Allowance for Housing, including the 2023 Basic Allowance for Housing rates and 2023 Basic Allowance for Housing rate component breakdown, visit https://www.travel.dod.mil/Allowances/Basic-Allowance-for-Housing/. Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the Basic Allowance for Housing calculator at: https://www.travel.dod.mil/Allowances/Basic-Allowance-for-Housing/BAH-Rate-Lookup/.
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