The PACT Act: A New Era for Veterans’ Healthcare
President Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — better known as the PACT Act — a year ago. It expands the Department of Veterans Affairs health care benefits to veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. According to the VA website, the PACT Act is possibly the largest expansion of veterans health care benefits in history.
The VA notes that the PACT Act:
- Adds 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic exposures
- Increases eligibility for health care benefits for veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
- Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
- Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
- Helps the VA to improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
How E-Law Supports Las Cruces Veterans
At E-Law, we are committed to ensuring Las Cruces veterans and residents are informed about changes in federal benefits programs especially for those who have served our country. Elder Law Attorney Michele Ungvarsky guides Las Cruces veterans and survivors in understanding their PACT Act-related benefits as well as other federal benefits programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Importance of Applying for PACT Act Benefits
Military Times’ recent article entitled, “Officials urge vets to apply for PACT Act benefits despite tech issues,” reports that while there’s no deadline to apply for future claims, veterans and survivors who filed or submitted an “intent to file” by August 9 may be eligible to have their benefits backdated a year to when the bill was signed. Otherwise, applicants will only be eligible to get payouts back to their date of filing.
As many as one in five Las Cruces veterans could benefit from new health care or disability payouts thanks to the measure, Military Times previously reported.
Technical Difficulties Faced by Applicants
However, the high influx of interested applicants has resulted in technical issues for some vets and survivors who have tried to submit their online intent to file, as well as prolonged wait times for those looking to call the VA, according to VA spokesman Terrence Hayes.
Roughly 18% of individuals who submitted their intent to file received a website error message on August 8th.
“If you received one of these messages, don’t worry! We have logged your intent to file and saved your effective date for benefits,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said on social media.
Lawmakers in Congress are still demanding answers as to what took place.
“I am requesting that VA provide me with daily updates on its efforts to contact veterans to assure them of receipt of their intents to file and provide them with any necessary further information or required next steps,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a letter. Tester added that he wants an overview of what caused the technical difficulties and how VA will address the “weakness in the system” in the future.
Wide-reaching Impacts of the PACT Act
The PACT Act creates presumptive-condition status for a list of cancers, respiratory illnesses, and additional ailments linked to burn pit exposure and other toxins like Agent Orange for generations of veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the first Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and several other deployments in between those campaigns. The VA has received nearly 786,000 disability claims under the PACT Act, processed almost 435,000, and approved more than 348,000. About 111,000 veterans believed to have experienced toxic exposure have enrolled in VA health care since the law was enacted. The department has paid out more than $1.4 billion, Military Times previously reported.
Next Steps for Las Cruces Veterans
If you are a Las Cruces veteran or survivor, you can file disability claims now on the VA website to apply for PACT Act-related benefits. Receiving VA health care benefits is an essential component for Las Cruces veterans and survivors to ensure that they live a healthy and fulfilled life. Request a consultation with E-Law for information about VA, additional benefits, and long-term care planning.
Read more about VA benefits in our article, VA Budget Items for Veterans.
Reference: Military Times (Aug. 9, 2023) “Officials urge vets to apply for PACT Act benefits despite tech issues”