MOAA’s work to secure long-overdue toxic exposure reform legislation on behalf of millions of veterans succeeded last year, but efforts to ensure the new benefits and screenings provided by the law are far from over.
The VA has been working hard to meet the high demand of claims ever since the Aug. 8 signing of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. In late March, the department hosted an offsite meeting in Atlanta with over 50 VA leaders, veteran service organizations (including MOAA), and congressional staff members on hand to discuss the implementation process, examine ongoing projects and future plans, and identify room for improvement going forward.
Josh Jacobs, VA’s senior advisor for policy performing the delegable duties of the under secretary for benefits emphasized the ongoing need for transparency and accountability from VA during the event. Days later, VA Secretary Denis McDonough spoke on the need to increase veterans’ trust of the department. Over 450,000 veterans have filed claims since the PACT Act was signed into law last August, which is only about 10% of those who may be eligible.
Of the nearly half a million claims filed in the past eight months, over 150,000 have already been completely processed. As the number of claims continues to grow, the VA has conducted massive hiring events across the country, with a plan to hire over 8,000 new employees by the end of 2023. VA officials also emphasized efforts to increase training for employees facing changes to their workflow processes brought on by the bill, which introduced 20 new toxic exposure presumptive conditions.
The law also significantly increases the number of exams conducted by the VA. Over 2.1 million toxic exposure screenings have taken place since mid-August of last year. The increased examinations and new processes mean that, on average, claims are taking longer to complete. The VA is committed to ensuring that all claims made by veterans are examined thoroughly and in a timely manner.
All veterans deserve world-class health care and their earned benefits, and the VA wants to ensure the needs of all veteran populations are being met. To see whether you may be eligible to file a PACT Act-related claim, contact the VA for more information:
- Online: VA.gov/PACT
- On the app: VA: Health and Benefits
- On the phone: (800) 698-2411
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