Nearly 113,000 applications have already been filed for the benefits of the PACT law
Veterans Affairs officials have already received nearly 113,000 new disability claims in connection with radical toxic exposure legislation enacted less than three months ago, an indication of the potential impact of the measure and the work ahead for the department.
Benefits managers have started accepting claims for all suspected 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 on August 10.
They include 12 types of cancer and 12 other respiratory diseases linked to exposure to fire pits during 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 sickness for veterans who served in several new locations in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Coverage of these issues had been a point of contention for years. In particular, veterans’ advocates have lamented that too many serious issues are related to burn pit exposure were ignored by VA leaders due to incomplete science linking health issues to toxic smoke from trash fires.
In the 75 days since signing, the department received 112,949 new disability claims related to the new suspected illnesses, an increase in benefits caseload of more than 21% over the same period last year.
“For far too long, substance-exposed veterans and their families have had to fight their government for the benefits and health care they have won,” Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Josh Jacobs said in a statement. a statement. “Through the PACT Act, generations of veterans will be able to get the care and benefits they deserve.”
Depending on the severity of a veteran’s injuries, he or she may be eligible for a disability award of up to $4,000. Presumptive status for service-related illnesses reduces the paperwork veterans must complete to receive monthly checks.
VA officials have urged veterans who think they may be eligible to apply now, although applications won’t be processed until January 2023. Payments are expected to begin in early spring.
The delay between accepting applications and processing them was designed to give VA managers time to put staff and processes in place to ensure the flood of new applications can be seamlessly integrated into the current workflow. advantages.
Even so, senior officials have warned that the backlog of late first applications (those taking more than four months to complete) is likely to increase early next year due to new PACT law cases.
The backlog currently stands at more than 143,000 cases, roughly double what it was before the coronavirus pandemic began in America in March 2020.
Veterans who want more information about illnesses covered by the PACT Act or who want to apply for disability benefits can visit the VA website or call 1-800-MY-VA-411 (1-800-698-2411).
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.