The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is beginning to provide additional health care and benefits for generations of toxic exposed veterans and their survivors. These expanded services are part of a 2022 law known as the PACT Act.
Just like any change in eligibility or benefits, there can be confusion or misinformation. Veterans shouldn't miss out on their benefits because they heard the wrong information.
Here are five myths about the PACT Act and the correct information to help veterans understand how the PACT Act impacts them, including eligibility for care and benefits.
Myth No. 1: The PACT Act Is Only for Vietnam-Era Veterans or Those on the Burn Pit Registry.
The PACT Act expands health care and benefits to many groups of veterans who were not previously eligible. Eligibility includes veterans who participated in a toxic exposure risk activity while serving on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training.
Veterans assigned to a duty station in certain locations (including airspace above) during specific periods of time are also presumed eligible. This includes veterans assigned to Bahrain; Iraq; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; or the United Arab Emirates and the airspace above since Aug. 2, 1990. Also on the list of eligible assignments are Afghanistan; Djibouti; Egypt; Jordan; Lebanon; Syria; Uzbekistan; and Yemen (as well as other countries the VA declares relevant) since Sept. 11, 2001.
Veterans deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Freedom's Sentinel; Operation New Dawn; Operation Inherent Resolve; or Resolute Support Mission are eligible.
Myth No. 2: Filing for New Benefits Puts Your Old Benefits at Risk.
Veterans who already receive health care, benefits or compensation for a service-connected condition will not have their claims readjudicated simply because they file for new benefits under the PACT Act.
Veterans can always request to have their disability rating reevaluated, but simply filing for benefits under PACT will not trigger a reevaluation. On the other hand, if you've previously had a claim rejected and might be eligible under PACT, you should reopen that claim. Filing a claim is free, and the VA encourages veterans who need support to seek out a qualified veterans service organization to help.
If you file a PACT Act benefits claim between now and Aug. 10, 2023, you may receive benefits paid back to Aug. 10, 2022 -- the day the bill was signed into law. The VA is encouraging all veterans who think they might be eligible to file now.
Myth No. 3: Survivors Don't Qualify for Any PACT Act Benefits.
Surviving family members may be eligible for a variety of benefits.
The PACT Act makes receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) easier for survivors. While the VA will contact survivors who were previously denied DIC and may now be eligible, survivors do not have to wait to submit a claim. They can do so now directly on the VA website.
In addition to DIC, other allowances, payments and benefits are available. That list includes a survivors pension, burial benefits and memorial items, a burial allowance, education and training, a VA-backed home loan and health care. Additionally, a one-time accrued benefits payment may be made to a surviving family member when records show the veteran was due additional benefits before their death.
Myth No. 4: The VA Can't Handle the Backlog, so It's Not Worth Filing a Claim.
The VA is ready for the PACT Act and is encouraging all veterans and survivors to apply for their benefits now.
Overall, the VA is delivering more benefits, more quickly and to more veterans than at any time in our nation's history -- and the VA has made significant progress in speeding up the time between the application for and delivery of benefits to veterans.
Over the past year, it has hired more than 1,700 claims processors, increased claims automation and invested in proactively scanning military personnel files into its systems. The Veterans Benefits Administration broke its all-time record with 1.7 million completed claims this year, 12% more claims than in the past fiscal year, which was the previous record.
Myth No. 5: I Need to Pay Someone to Apply for PACT Act Care or Benefits.
There's been an increase in PACT Act-related scams targeting veterans to access their PACT Act benefits or submit claims on their behalf. Veterans should be very cautious of anyone who guarantees a lucrative financial benefit or service.
There are no fees to apply, and the VA will never charge veterans for processing a claim. If you need help applying for benefits, VA-accredited representatives and veteran service officers are always standing by and ready to help.
For more information on the PACT Act and eligibility for veterans health care and benefits, visit VA's PACT Act website.
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