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An Update on the PACT Act for Vets

Why Estate Planning for Veterans and Active Military Is Important and What Documents are Essential
Despite some technical issues with online submissions, officials are encouraging applications for payouts connected to historic legislation aimed at helping veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service before an important deadline passes.

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. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, just came across the following article and wanted to share an update on the PACT Act for veterans.

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 veterans living in America today could get new health care or disability payouts thanks to the measure, Military Times previously reported.

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.

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.

Beck, Lenox & Stolzer is committed to serving Vets as much as we can, and we will continue to provide an update on the PACT Act for Vets whenever available.

In case you are not aware, as a courtesy for our clients who are veterans or widows of veterans, we offer assistance in assessing eligibility for VA Aid & Attendance pension benefits for non-service related disabilities. For information on that, click here. Listen to the video, in addition to reviewing the printed information. While Beck, Lenox & Stolzer focuses on the non-service related disabilities, sometimes, we end up helping veterans discover service-connected compensation in the process.

Reference: Military Times (Aug. 9, 2023) “Officials urge vets to apply for PACT Act benefits despite tech issues”

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