PACT Act greatly expands veteran benefits: Veterans previously denied benefits should reapply
The PACT Act, a new law passed earlier this month, expands Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. It is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.
The PACT Act:
- Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam War, Gulf War and post-9/11 eras.
- Adds 23 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures. Burn pits are large areas of land in which the military and its contractors incinerate all waste generated by military bases, including plastics, medical waste, rubber, human waste and other materials.
- 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.
“We know there are hundreds if not thousands of veterans in our county who have previously been denied benefits and are now eligible for health care and compensation due to the PACT Act,” said Vicki Horn, supervisor for Washington County Veteran Services, a program of Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services (DAVS).
One such veteran is 43-year-old Sgt. Pheonix* Brooks. In April 2017, the post-911 era veteran filed a claim for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), two conditions many veterans from that era developed due to exposure to burn pits. He was denied. This past February, DAVS staff helped him successfully resubmit a claim for asthma based on another update to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions. And earlier this week, Sgt. Brooks visited DAVS’ office in Hillsboro for assistance filing a new claim for COPD under the PACT Act.
“We’ve waited too long for the benefits we deserve,” Brooks said. “Every veteran who was exposed to burn pits needs to apply as soon as they can. DAVS staff are great to work with, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them to help you submit your claim.”
The full name of the new law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
“The PACT Act makes it possible for many more veterans to receive the benefits they are entitled to, but they need to file a claim,” said Horn. “Our office is here to explain the changes in law and assist veterans in the claims process.”
The VA has established a PACT Act webpage to help answer questions about what the PACT Act means for veterans and their loved ones.
Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services provides programs and services to maintain and enhance quality of life to assure that basic needs are met for Washington County seniors, veterans and people with disabilities
In Washington County, veterans can get assistance applying for benefits by calling DAVS at 503-846-3060 or by filling out an inquiry form on the agency’s website.