About 850,000 claims related to the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act were filed in the year since the MOAA-supported law took effect, with over 350,000 of the claims approved.
VA officials discussed progress on implementing the legislation, and ways to improve the process going forward, during a gathering in Boston last month with congressional staff and representatives from veterans service organizations (VSOs), including MOAA.
Around 400,000 claims are still pending evaluation, according to the VA, resulting in a 78.5% approval rate for adjudicated claims. More than 4 million toxic exposure screenings have been recorded since September 2022, and the top five most frequent conditions on PACT-related claims have been:
- Hypertensive vascular disease
- Allergic rhinitis
- Maxillary sinusitis
- Bronchial asthma
- Malignant growths of genitourinary system
The passage of this bill has encouraged a significant number of veterans to apply for benefits even if the PACT Act does not affect them. Nearly 1.8 million claims (including PACT-Act related claims) have been filed since the bill was signed into law. This is an increase of 33.8% claims compared to this time last year.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has completed around 16% more claims compared to this point last year, partly due to massive hiring efforts to account for the additional workload. The VA added over 5,500 jobs from January 2022 to June 2023.
The VA also held over 500 events around the country this year to provide vital benefits information to over 57,000 rural and minority veterans.
[FROM VA.GOV: PACT Act First Year in Review (PDF)]
“The PACT Act means today’s veterans and their families won’t suffer those same painful, frustrating delays and denials,” President Joe Biden said during a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the PACT Act at the VA Regional Office in Salt Lake City. “And here’s what the law does: It empowers the Veterans Administration, the VA, to move quicker to determine if a veteran qualifies for the benefits of the law — benefits like monthly disability compensation and regular toxic exposure screenings.”
Are You Eligible for Benefits?
So, what is next for the VA and veterans (and their survivors) who may be affected by this new law? The deadline to have benefits backdated to Aug. 10, 2022, has passed, but that does not mean that you cannot still file a PACT Act-related claim. Visit VA.gov/PACT for more information; MOAA recommends reaching out to a VSO for free assistance with filing your claim.
The VA will continue to research new presumptive conditions and is encouraging those who have, or think they may have, a condition not currently listed as a presumptive to schedule an exam. VA officials say the department is committed to continue open and transparent communication with the community as they continue to process new claims brought on by this momentous legislation.
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