Tester Statement on VA’s Proposal to Add Nine New Presumptive Conditions for Toxic-Exposed Veterans

Ahead of the State of the Union, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced its intent to begin processing disability benefits claims for veterans suffering from nine rare respiratory cancers as a result of their military service, following sustained efforts from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester who released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement is a huge victory for veterans living with conditions related to their military toxic exposures, who have been denied their due care and benefits for far too long. I appreciate VA Secretary McDonough taking the necessary steps to do right by these veterans-expanding coverage for nine conditions covered under my comprehensive COST of War Act. This action assists Congress’ ongoing efforts to provide health care and benefits to more veterans, and brings us one step closer to delivering all generations of toxic-exposed veterans the relief they deserve. While there is still much to be done, I encourage every eligible veteran in need of this assistance to apply as soon as possible.”

VA’s rulemaking will add presumptive service connection for certain veterans suffering from the following rare respiratory cancers: squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx, squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea, adenocarcinoma of the trachea, salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea, adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung, large cell carcinoma of the lung, salivary gland-type tumors of the lung, sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung, and typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

This proposed rule change follows a presumption expansion made last year by the Biden Administration, where the Department established presumptive conditions for veterans suffering from asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis as a result of their military service in Southwest Asia.

As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a Committee member since 2007, Tester has been a staunch advocate for delivering relief to generations of toxic-exposed veterans. He has authored, introduced, negotiated, and passed historic laws to provide long-overdue care and benefits to tens of thousands of veterans suffering from conditions related to their toxic exposure. Working with various Veterans Service Organizations and advocates, Tester championed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act and Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act.

In May, Tester unveiled his Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act to allow all veterans who were at risk of toxic exposure to obtain immediate and lifelong access to health care from VA. Prior to Memorial Day last year, his legislation unanimously cleared the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The nine conditions announced by VA today are covered under Tester’s comprehensive bill.

In his continued push to provide toxic-exposed veterans the relief they deserve, Tester’s most recent toxic exposure bill-the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Actcleared the Senate last month with unanimous support. This bipartisan legislation is the first of a three-step approach to expand access to health care for toxic-exposed veterans, establish a new process through which VA will determine future presumptive conditions, and provide overdue benefits to thousands of toxic-exposed veterans who have been long-ignored or forgotten.

To apply for benefits, veterans and survivors may visit VA.gov or call toll-free at 800-827-1000