VA marks half-a-million PACT Act claims filed in latest milestone

Perhaps the biggest federal health care benefit for veterans in generations continues to get attention.

More than 500,000 claims for toxic exposure-related benefits under the PACT Act have been filed since August 2022, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said Wednesday.

So far, VA has awarded more than $1 billion in earned benefits to veterans and survivors who filed PACT Act-related claims, the department said.

ExploreVeterans fight for passage of PACT measure

Closer to home, the Dayton VA Medical Center had screened nearly 12,000 veterans for possible PACT benefits as of February. Dr. Thomas Hardy, the Dayton VA chief of staff, said at a Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission Tuesday that the local number is now closer to 20,000.

Nationally, the VA also said that more than three million veterans have received VA’s new toxic exposure screenings since August, with about 42% reporting a concern of exposure, the VA said.

More than 215,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care since the measure was signed into law last summer, a 15% increase compared to the same timeframe the year before.

“We’re proud that 500,000-plus veterans and survivors have applied for their hard-earned benefits to date, but we won’t rest until every veteran and every survivor gets the VA health care and benefits they deserve,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said.

Also Wednesday, the VA said it processed its millionth disability compensation and pension claim during fiscal year 2023, putting the VA on pace to process a record number of claims for the third straight year.

The VA encourages all eligible veterans and survivors to file a claim — or submit intent to file a claim — for PACT Act-related benefits.

Most veterans who do so before August 10 will have their benefits, if granted, backdated to Aug. 10, 2022, the day that President Biden signed the bill into law.

The PACT Act expanded VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances.

The PACT Act adds to the list of health conditions that the governments assumes or presumes were caused by exposure to these substances.

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