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