With the passing of the PACT Act, millions of Veterans who were exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances are now eligible for additional VA healthcare benefits. Here’s some key information about the PACT Act that will help you determine if you’re eligible for disability compensation and how to apply.
What is the PACT Act?
The PACT Act is a 2022 law that expands VA healthcare and benefits for US Veterans by providing additional funding, specifically for veterans exposed to toxic substances. The PACT Act expands the list of health conditions that the government has recognized are caused by exposure to these harmful substances. Also known as the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, the PACT Act is so named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a decorated Ohio Army National Guard combat medic who passed away on May 6, 2020, at the age of 39, after battling a rare form of lung cancer for three years.
How does the PACT Act affect VA benefits?
The PACT Act implements the following changes to VA benefits:
- Expands VA healthcare eligibility for Veterans that have been exposed to toxic substances and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
- Adds 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange, and other exposures
- Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and harmful radiation
- Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening for every Veteran enrolled in VA healthcare
- Helps the VA improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
How do I claim benefits?
Veterans and survivors of these toxic exposures can now apply for PACT Act-related benefits. There are two ways for veterans to file for disability benefits. Any claim must fall under this new definition of a “presumptive condition.”
- Veterans who’ve never filed a claim for their presumptive condition can simply file a new claim online. They’re also able to file a claim by mail or in person.
- Veterans who have had their disability claim denied in the past but are now considered to have a presumptive condition can submit a Supplemental Claim to have the VA review the case again.
Tips to Avoid PACT Act Scams
There has been an increase in PACT Act related phishing (email), vishing (phone), and social media scams targeting Veterans to access their PACT Act benefits or submit claims on their behalf.
Veterans should be cautious of anyone who guarantees a financial benefit or service. To report suspected fraudulent activity, contact the Inspector General Hotline at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 488-8244.
Protect yourself against new scams with these tips:
- Do not provide personal, benefits, medical, or financial details online or over the phone. Federal agencies will not contact you unless you make a request.
- Do not click on online ads or engage with social media that seem suspicious.
- Check for “https://” at the start of website addresses.
- Enable multi-factor authentication on all accounts.
- Work with Veteran service providers you already know.
Where can I get help?
If you need help applying for benefits, VA accredited Veterans Service Officers (VSO) can help you file a claim or appeal. There’s no cost for the forms, no fees to apply, and VA will never charge Veterans for processing a claim. Currently, the VA has no deadline for applying for the PACT Act benefits. But if Veterans file a claim or submit an Intent to File by August 9, 2023, they can receive benefits backdated to August 10, 2022. The VA is encouraging anyone who might be eligible for these PACT benefits to apply immediately.
Do you or a loved one qualify for the PACT Act’s healthcare benefits? Call the VA at (800) 698-2411 for more information or file a claim for your PACT Act-related disability compensation – HERE.