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PACT Act: What is it?

The PACT Act expands benefits and healthcare for veterans who were exposed to open-air burn pits in Southwest Asia.

ARKANSAS, USA — With the PACT Act passing just last week, veterans have questions. Today, the Washington County Veteran Services answered some of those.

Veterans seeking healthcare benefits are urged to file their claims as soon as possible.

The Pact Act expands VA healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. The act will expand healthcare to veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras. It also adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions, and more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation.

The law, fully named The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, is presumably the largest health care an benefit expansion in the history, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The PACT Act adds additional criteria which would extend eligibility for veterans to file a claim for disability compensation:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures

Presumptive Conditions

Presumptive conditions are those which are automatically assumed to have been caused by a veteran's service. 

Based on the PACT Act, the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs have added more than 20 presumptive conditions that would expand benefits for veterans who served during the Gulf War Era and post-9/11 veterans. 

Some of these conditions include cancers such as brain and kidney cancer as well as other illnesses. 

New presumptive conditions have also been added that would expand benefits for Vietnam War era veterans. 

A full list of conditions that were added under the passing of the PACT Act can be found here

Filing a disability claim for a new presumptive condition

For veterans who have not filed a claim for a presumptive condition, there are options to do so online, by mail , or in person with a trained professional. 

The Director of Veteran Services for Washington County Ben Dykes says there are three important things to submit when filing:

  • Your DD214
  • A diagnosis from your doctor
  • More evidence of your condition

“It’s almost like a court case, you know building a case. In court you need to have evidence, you need to have the what. You’re the who, but you need to have the what and the when and the why to put that case together and file a successful claim at the VA,” Dykes said.

Dykes urges veterans to get their claims filed as soon as possible with these criteria, so they can be processed quickly and accepted.

“If you know a veteran that has something like this, urge them to come and talk to us. If you know a surviving spouse of a veteran, urge them to come and talk to us, especially if you think that it’s a condition that may be they’re related to,” Dykes said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains more steps in filing a disability claim on their website

PACT Act related benefits will be processed starting in January of 2023, according to the VA. All veterans and survivors are encouraged to file for benefits now. This will help to prevent the backdating of benefits that would otherwise occur if claims are filed next year. 

To file a claim or read more about the PACT Act, visit the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs website.

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