Benefits officials started accepting claims for all presumptive illnesses included in the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (better known as the PACT Act) after it was signed into law by President Joe Biden. This PACT Act impacts veterans who were exposed to toxins and other life-threatening agents during their service, according to Rudy Beck of Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law. Military Times’ recent article entitled “Nearly 113K claims already filed for PACT Act benefits” explains that they include:
- 12 types of cancer and 12 other respiratory illnesses linked to burn pit exposure in the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) for veterans who served in Vietnam; and
- Radiation-related illnesses for veterans who served in several new locations in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Congress said officials could wait until 2026 to handle some claims. However, White House officials have ordered the VA to move faster. In the 75 days since the signing, the department has received 112,949 new applications for disability claims related to the new presumptive illnesses. That’s an increase in the benefits workload of more than 21% from the same period last year.
“For too long, toxic-exposed veterans and their families have had to fight their government for the benefits and health care they’ve earned,” Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Josh Jacobs said in a statement. “Thanks to the PACT Act, generations of veterans will be able to get the care and benefits they deserve.”
Based on the severity of a veteran’s injuries, he or she may be eligible for up to $4,000 in disability compensation. Presumptive status for service-connected illnesses cuts down on the paperwork veterans are required to file to receive the monthly checks.
VA officials have been asking vets who think they may be eligible to apply now, even though claims won’t be processed until January 2023, with the payouts starting in early spring.
The lag from accepting claims and processing them was designed to give VA officials time to put personnel and processes in place, so that the onslaught of new claims can be smoothly integrated into the current benefits workflow. The backlog currently is at over 143,000 cases—about twice what it was before the start of the pandemic.
As a fellow veteran himself, Rudy Beck, is thankful that PACT Act benefits will be available to veterans who suffered from exposure to the Camp LeJeune water contamination, to burn pits in the Middle East and to Agent Orange in and around Vietnam. It sounds like our veterans will have an easier time receiving compensation as compared to the past. It’s about time!
Reference: Military Times (Oct. 25, 2022) “Nearly 113K claims already filed for PACT Act benefits”