Biden administration addresses environmental hazards' effects on veterans' health 

Many veterans have historically been exposed to hazardous environments when on duty, sometimes triggering the development of health conditions. The Biden administration announced on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, new provisions that address these exposure-related health problems. 

Due to gaps in knowledge and understanding of how environmental exposure affects health outcomes, many veterans do not receive access to the necessary treatment under the Department of Veterans Affairs. To support these veterans, the administration is laying out several plans. 

Improving methods for establishing service connection

Veterans face challenges in proving the connection between their disabilities and potential environmental exposure. To combat this, the VA has sped up the decision-making process with a new model that accelerates consideration of adding presumptive conditions. In August, the VA began processing new claims of asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter.

Improving individual data 

The VA is increasing the operational capacity of the Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, which collects data on health risks and exposures of service members. This, in turn, can be integrated into veterans' medical care and benefits data.

Raising awareness for veterans

Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility to claim benefits and services; thus, in October, the VA launched an awareness campaign. It also plans to schedule public service announcements and live events.  

Increased training for medical professionals

The VA has contracted the American College of Preventive Medicine to design a module for healthcare providers that trains them in military exposures and their associated health risks. All VA providers will have to take the course. In 2022, the VA will also establish a call center and network of specialists that will answer specific questions from veterans about environmental exposure. 

Extended eligibility period

The VA will call upon Congress to increase the special eligibility period for veterans to receive free care for their service-related conditions. The current period stands at five years after discharge from certain operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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